Stephen Dietz’s God’s Country has haunted me ever since I saw a production of it in the basement of my high school theater. The space was small, the actors amateur, but the impact was great. God’s Country followed me to Princeton, where I wrote a paper on it for a freshman seminar in Documentary Theater. (The play is based on the 1984 murder of Denver talk-show host Alan Berg by members of a white nationalist group known as The Order.) I wrote my junior independent paper for the Religion Department about The Order, and now I am writing my thesis on the religious dimensions of the White Power Movement. I feel that I have been preparing myself to direct God’s Country for nearly four years. This production embodies my passion for documentary theatre and for social justice.
More than any other type of theatre, documentary theatre requires social awareness and intellectual participation from its audience. Dietz uses striking theatrical tactics to involve his audience in his docudrama and keep God’s Country from becoming a simple morality play. As he once said in an interview, “Having a character come onstage and say, ‘These people are bad, don’t be like them,’ you’re not learning anything.” The choices Dietz has made force each audience member to participate in the moral tension of the play, to inquire whether these people are monsters or men. I hope that my production will evoke a response from my audience that will keep them thinking long after they walk out the door.
I would like to thank my parents, Dori and Robert, for making me believe that socially-minded theatre can change the world. Thanks to my sister Gabby who inspires me with her beauty, wit and charm; to my grandmother for her constant support and unshakable zest for life; and to my great-aunt Mary for her generosity and strength. Thanks also to the Lewis Center Program in Theater for supporting this production; to Professor Vasen for keeping me sane and honest with myself; to Professors Cadden and Sandberg for their additional advice and guidance; and to the professional production team and their lighting-quick speed. Special thanks to my team of goddesses: Hannah Wilson, Julia Keimach, Caroline Hodge, and Elyse Powell, without whom I would have gone crazy a long time ago.
To the eleven amazing individuals in my cast who have brought your dedication, focus, and passion for this project, you are my dream team. PJ, by believing in my vision you gave me the confidence to execute it, so thank you so much for that. Thanks also to Courtney Flanagan, Jacob Berlowe, and the cast of the earlier production I saw so many years ago. And a final thank you to Steven Dietz for writing this play and for traveling to Princeton to talk with us about a work that has haunted me for so many years.