Earlier this week, the world witnessed the funeral of Marie Colvin, an American reporter who was recently slain in Syria. With bold headlines, high definition footage and live streaming, it often feels like we are just a click away from war. Yet, behind every article, photo and blog are the thousands of stories of how brave men and women got their stories.
Amlin Gray's play How I Got That Story, now playing at San Diego's Mo'olelo Theater, tells the story of a young reporter in a war zone and the challenge he must overcome to not become the story himself. This fast-paced "nightmare comedy" explores the boundary between historical fact and subjective experience all while inspiring audiences to consider what is the human impact of war and the role of the media.
How I Got That Story, directed by Seema Sueko, is set in Am-bo Land, reminiscent of Vietnam, in which the Reporter (Brian Bielawski) eagerly arrives to write about the Event (Greg Wantanabe). Bielawski expertly captures the innocent spirit of the young reporter as he grapples with trying to stay subjective in the face of war. From a brash guerrilla solider to the seductive Madame Ing and a sensitive nun, Wantanabe skillfully portrays the range of personalities of some twenty characters that the reporter meets along his way.
The show opened March 2 and closes this Sunday, March 18 and the response has been overwhelming, specifically, for the veteran community. "The comments I have received from the vets after the show are so heartfelt," shares Bielawski. The show is creating an opening for insights while bringing the entire community into their experiences. A Vietnam vet came up to him after the show and said, "Thank you for doing this work, it is so important for people to see this."
History shows us that the horrors of war first entered the living rooms of Americans for the first time during the Vietnam War and since then the American public has watched images of a war being fought around the world. During the Vietnam War, networks set up permanent offices in Saigon and sent hundreds of correspondents there throughout the war, and How I Got That Story puts the journalist on the front page and shows their story. Performances by the power duo Brian Bielawski and Greg Wantanabe are utterly captivating and the creative team supports this impacting story. From a stage decorated with front page newspaper headlines that brilliantly serve as scene titles to dramatic lighting choices, period costumes and human-made sound effects, the play succeeds across the board.
How I Got That Story is also complemented by a profound pre-show that features 1- to 2-minute videos from veterans and civilians about how they've survived the confusion of war. Additionally, the 10th Avenue Theatre Resident Visual Artist Gerald Montoya has curated an art show in the second floor galleries of The 10th Avenue Theatre.
During Marie Colvin's funeral, one of her colleagues shared that just before she died he received an email that said: "Doing this story is why we went into journalism. Something terrible is happening here." This sentiment can easily be applied to this show. Seeing this show is why theater exists, it helps tell the stories that truly make the difference of how we see the world.
How I Got That Story runs through March 18
Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company
10th Avenue Theatre - 930 10th Ave. San Diego, CA
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; matinee Sunday at 2 p.m.