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Stuff Happens: a cautionary tale for our time

Friday, 03 August 2018


“Politics has been thrust at us in surprising ways lately,” says American director, Gregg T. Daniel. “With Trump and Brexit, we’re witnessing how quickly political power can shift.

“I can’t think of a better play to examine the machinations of government than David Hare’s Stuff Happens.”

Daniel, who is adjunct lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts, is in Perth to direct WAAPA’s 3rd Year Acting students in Hare’s searing examination of the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq.

Stuff Happens will be performed in WAAPA’s Roundhouse Theatre from Friday, 24 - Thursday, 30 August. A post-show discussion will be held on Tuesday, 28 August, providing a wonderful opportunity for audience members to quiz the cast and crew about the production.

The play’s title comes from a quote by the then American Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. On 11 April 2003, while Baghdad was enduring widespread looting in the invasion’s aftermath, Rumsfeld held a press conference at which he said, “Stuff happens… and it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things”.

Award-winning English playwright David Hare used Rumsfeld’s comments as the starting point for a theatrical exploration into the events leading up to the invasion. Verbatim speeches and dialogue from press conferences are fused with fictionalized versions of private meetings between members of the Bush and Blair administrations.

Daniel describes how he was initially concerned that the material in Stuff Happens might feel dated.

“On the contrary, the back room negotiations, the idiosyncratic personalities and the often super egos of our contemporary politicians makes the material more resonant than ever,” he explains. ”The play continues to be a cautionary tale for our time.”

As an example of just how relevant Stuff Happens is in today’s political climate, Daniel cites one of the play’s more alarming quotes spoken by an Iraqi exile: “A country’s leader is the country’s own fault.”

“Politics is theatre,” he says. “Politicians become actors performing on a world stage to an international audience. The plot changes according to the wants and needs of the politician and the outcome is never assured.”

Stuff Happens presents particular demands on the actors performing it, with more than 42 roles to be filled. However Daniel expresses absolute confidence in his company of 3rd Year Acting students.

“The student actors at WAAPA are a wonderfully gifted, versatile and intelligent bunch,” he says. “They clearly have spent time and energy honing their craft. I have no doubt the actors are up to the challenge.”

“I encourage everyone to come share in this remarkable play. Prepare to be shocked by how absolute power can corrupt our political process.”

The WAAPA Visiting Artists' Program is proudly supported by the Minderoo Foundation.

For all venue and performance details, please visit the Stuff Happens performance web page.


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