Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness is back, this time with a play called Americans. Tackling the themes of patriotism, power and the allure of violence, it explores the American empire and the imprint it has left on the world. Here Eric tells us when he first wrote the play, his view on the USA and the playwrights that have most influenced him.
Why, when and where did you write Americans?I wrote Americans in 1985. I did most of the research while I was a grad student in England, then finished the play in the States. I’d been studying history, thinking a lot about why empires rise and fall. This story seemed like a good way to dramatize the origins of the American empire. Nobody wanted to produce the play, though. This was at the height of the Reagan era, and perhaps nobody wanted to deal with the fact that there was an ‘American Empire’.
How do you feel about it finally being performed?At the moment it feels very gratifying. But I won’t really know until I see the play being performed.
Why do you think the issues it discusses are relevant to the beginning of the 21st century?I thought the fundamental issues were relevant twenty years ago. But people just didn’t want to confront them. Now that the United States has been attacked, now that we’ve conquered Iraq and are running it like an imperial outpost, the relevance of the subject matter seems more obvious.
How does Americans relate to the issues you explore in Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness?In all these works I’m trying to explore how the USA came to be the way it is. I love my country – yet at the moment, in so many ways, the place is a mess.
What playwright has had a profound influence on you?Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder – I think they’re the greatest that America has produced. Seeing their plays made me want to write plays. Arthur Miller was particularly inspiring. I’m still amazed that at the height of the McCarthy witch-hunts, he had the nerve to write The Crucible. That was a brave thing to do. I like writers who go against the tide.
Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control (The Penguin Press) is a California Book Awards Finalist in the Non-Fiction Category. Since 1931, the California Book Awards have strived to annually… Read more >