We write to invite you to a brunch benefit in support of the Brava Theater Center’s upcoming groundbreaking production of Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom in March and April, 2005. The brunch will take place at the home of Betsy Weedon, [address redacted], in Mill Valley, on Sunday, February 6, 2005 at 1:00 p.m. The afternoon will include a short excerpt from the play by actor Harsh Nayyar and a dialogue with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
In September of 2004, BRAVA’s Artistic Director Ellen Gavin attended a production in New York at The Culture Project of Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, and she has worked to bring it to San Francisco ever since. Benefit hosts Rebecca Martinez and Peter Sloss had the privilege of seeing the original production in London at the Tricycle Theater and were equally moved. We truly believe this provocative play will make a difference in public understanding about the implications of treatment of international prisoners by the U.S. government.
In less than one year this phenomenal work, gleaned from verbatim testimonies of Guantanamo detainees, lawyers, politicians and detainees’ family members, made it from the page to the stage and to great acclaim in London and New York. The Tricycle Theater commissioned the play, written by two women journalists, Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, and directed by Nicholas Kent and Sasha Wares. In New York, such luminaries as Desmond Tutu, Tim Robbins and Danny Glover joined the cast for an evening.
The Brava Theater Center now has the great opportunity – given the perfect size of our theater and our compatible artistic mission – to bring this timely production to San Francisco for four weeks for its third and final run. In order to do this without jeopardizing our financial stability, we must raise between $75,000 and $100,000 to cover advertising and the extraordinary travel, housing and per diem expenses related to bringing at least ten actors from New York. The brilliant cast includes such notable actors as Kathleen Chalfant (Wit, Angels in America, Kinsey), Andrew Stewart-Jones (Sex in the City), and the prolific character actor, Harsh Nayyar (Hidalgo, Traffic, Gandhi).
We are also working closely with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, who is the chief legal activist around Guantanamo human rights abuses, to fashion a laser-sharp activist campaign with audience members to provoke change from the grassroots. Our one-month run of performances will be augmented with numerous organizing efforts, panels, media events and calls-to-action.
In our short period of fundraising, key partners have emerged. The Columbia Foundation has pledged a $25,000 award to Brava contingent upon a match. Individual donors have come forward with an additional $13,000. We also have proposals pending with other foundations and keen interest from individuals, placing our goal well within reach.
The thriving Brava Theater Center has both the will and capacity to carry this project to the finish line. Last year’s production of Nickel and Dimed drew over 10,000 people to our theater and ignited and supported numerous organizing efforts on behalf of working women and men — from the Safeway workers’ strike, to the lawsuit concerning sexual discrimination by Wal-Mart, to both the minimum wage and living wage campaigns. It was our most successful effort ever to utilize theater as a medium of education and activism.
Your contribution as a co-producer of Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom will allow us to do what we do best: use professional high quality theater to illuminate and agitate, creating lasting change in our culture and society at a time that has never been more critical.
We send you best wishes in the coming year. Given the state of the world and of our increasingly imperiled democracy, never has it seemed more incongruous to go about routine rituals while our government’s actions wreak such havoc on average Iraqis, as well as our own young men and women in the military. On every front we are watching as our civil liberties are eroded and we lose our ethical standing in eyes of the world. We strongly believe this piercing and timely play can make a difference, and your participation can make it happen.
Please feel free to call BRAVA (415-641-7657 Ext. 3) with questions or suggestions. Also please R.S.V.P. to Betsy Weedon at [redacted]. If you cannot attend the brunch benefit, but would like to generously support Brava’s effort in bringing this production to San Francisco, please use the enclosed envelope. We look forward to speaking with you in the very near future.
Artistic Director, Brava Theater Center