Twenty minutes into a preview of Lawrence Wright's new one-man show, My Trip to Al Qaeda, a projector bulb goes out. "So this is what the theater's like," he quips.
The New Yorker scribe has written for the stage and screen before, but this week marks his debut as a performer in his own right. The result -- a 75-minute, multimedia monologue about his work writing the critically acclaimed book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 -- is impressive. Wright traveled to eleven countries and interviewed over six hundred people (including federal officials, intelligence agents, and members of Al Qaeda), and, in addition to The Looming Tower, he produced a number of articles for The New Yorker, including a gut-wrenching piece, adapted from the book, about how startlingly close one FBI agent came to unraveling the 9/11 plot before it came to its tragic fruition. My Trip to Al Qaeda offers the audience a glimpse into the process behind this work -- into Wright's emotional journey toward an understanding of what motivates Al Qaeda, what it was like to interact with radical Islamists while still maintaining some necessary detachment, and the toll it all took on him both psychologically and in his personal life.