Before there was the movie, there was The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden. From the critically acclaimed author and playwright WC Turck comes the hilarious and powerful play about Edward Snowden. Whether you think he is a hero or villain, is our country spying on us and what does that mean for our freedoms? Take a rare glimpse into the deepest shadows of the American intelligence world. We’re all just 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, but in this topsy-turvy world, if the government takes down a rogue Kevin Bacon tomorrow how many of us are going down with him? You are there in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport for Snowden’s Press conference about the state of our civil liberties, as he fends off a hapless NSA agent on one side and a sexy Russian Agent on the other.
The play runs 90 minutes with no intermission.
After the Friday evening and Sunday matinees there are post – show discussions with the director, playwright and cast.
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The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden is a thought-provoking satire that tackles important questions of freedom and privacy. As the play opens, a “press conference” is scheduled in Terminal F of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. Audiences are introduced to Edward Snowden (Nick Bryant) by his alluring Russian “minder,” Natasha (Lara Dohner). She tells us that Snowden, the infamous former CIA employee who revealed details about classified U.S. government surveillance programs in 2013, is making himself available for questions. So begins an evening of immersive theater that takes audiences on a thought-provoking journey into the chilling world of global data-gathering and surveillance.
Snowden’s appearance at this press conference is monitored not only by Natasha – whom we learn is an agent of the Russian intelligence service – but also by Flenkins (JT Nagle), an American NSA operative. Flenkins takes frequent opportunities to remind Snowden that he is now an “enemy of America” guilty of treason. As the two trade pointed barbs and taunts, this sardonic comedy offers thought-provoking revelations about the security state and contemporary spy culture. Snowden, who acknowledges that his life “has become a bit complicated,” describes the circumstances that led him to do what he did, and encourages us to consider what his revelations might mean for both the democracy and the civil rights we take for granted.
Snowden outlines some of the frightening realities of the modern information state, making it clear that our understanding of information technology is being outpaced by the technology itself. He warns that we really don’t understand the risks associated with the technology that has slowly trickled into our lives in recent years. This “invasion” is best exemplified by the smartphone, a seemingly innocuous device that has become almost indispensable for most of us. During his “press conference,” Snowden points out that our government not only knows virtually everything about us, but that global surveillance has made our faith in the idea of personal privacy both misguided and dangerously naïve.
This thought-provoking black comedy raises many questions, among them: Is all this new information-gathering technology a blessing or a curse? Is our global security system a safeguard against terrorism or a threat to our civil rights and democracy? Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden takes no stand either way on these questions, leaving it to viewers to decide for themselves.
Rounding out the cast of this provocative satire are Katie Schwaber as a cynical airport gate agent and Rob Weinstein as an American traveler lost in the airport.
At Oil Lamp Theater we seek to offer our guests opportunities to experience our theatrical works in a deeper way. Along those lines, we recommend the following materials:
Citizenfour – HBO Films (Video, 2014 – 1 hour, 54 min.)
Documentary-maker Laura Poitras follows Edward Snowden and covers the NSA spying scandal that shocked the world. Citizenfour is a tense real-life thriller with unprecedented access to Snowden as he reveals classified documents pertaining to mass illegal invasions of privacy by the NSA. Citizenfour received critical acclaim upon release, and received numerous accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Oscars.
Terminal F: Chasing Edward Snowden (Video, 2015 – 58 min.)
Strikingly photographed and sharply edited, this documentary, directed by John Goetz, Poul-Erik Heilbuth, presents a solid primer on the position Snowden held at the NSA, his motivations for exposing sensitive and potentially damaging materials, and the reality of his life as one of the most notorious whistleblowers in American history. This film offers fresh and revealing insights along the way, thanks to interviews with his father, his co-workers, former NSA Director Michael Hayden, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, reporter Glenn Greenwald, and Snowden himself.
Edward Snowden’s TED talk: Here’s How We Take Back the Internet (Video, March 2014 – 35 min.)
Appearing by telepresence video feed, Edward Snowden speaks at TED 2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. “Your rights matter,” he says, “because you never know when you’re going to need them.” Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald (Book, 2014 – 330 pp.)
In May 2013, Greenwald set out for Hong Kong to meet an anonymous source who claimed to have astonishing evidence of government spying and insisted on communicating only through heavily encrypted channels. That source turned out to be the twenty-nine-year-old NSA contractor Edward Snowden. His revelations about the agency’s widespread, systemic overreach proved to be some of the most explosive and consequential news in recent history, triggering a fierce debate over national security and information privacy.
Greenwald fits the pieces together, recounting his eleven-day trip to Hong Kong, examining the broader implications of the surveillance detailed in his reporting for The Guardian, and revealing fresh information on the NSA’s unprecedented abuse of power with documents from the Snowden archive. No Place to Hide has sparked outrage around the globe and also been hailed by voices across the political spectrum as an essential contribution to our understanding of the U.S. surveillance state.
Natasha - FSB Agent
Agent Flenkins of NSA
Hapless American Passenger