Project: Hollywood on Trial




It’s 1951 and Joseph McCarthy is on the prowl for Communists.

“Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” is a common question on the House floor.

McCarthy claims that, at the center of the communist problem, is Hollywood.

Ever since I was in high school, I have been drawn to this aspect of the Cold War. I am obsessed with a lot of aspects of the Cold War. But one aspect that interests me as a dramaturg is not the war that took place between the what was then the USSR (Russia/the Soviet Union) and the United States. Rather, I am struck by the conflict that took place in American living rooms. It’s 1951 and everyday Americans are watching the Blacklist’s progression on their TV screens. They watched the “Duck and Cover” videos, built air raid shelters, and turned in their neighbors if they were suspected communists. In 1951 Americans lived in fear. In history books, it’s called the Red Scare for a reason.

I want to tap into that fear. I want to attempt to understand what went through HUAC’s mind as they sat people down and punished them for decisions that were often made twenty or thirty years ago, or yesterday. I want to know what’s so wrong with Communism. I know about Stalin and Mussolini. I know what they did. But what about Marx and his followers? What about the Union Laborers? I want to know why America took McCarthy at his word and did not demand to see a physical list the first time he opened his damn mouth.

This project will be a play that combines elements of documents from the National Archives (the Hollywood Blacklist testimonies), interviews with people who grew up during the Cold War, and theater.


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