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5 Questions With … Joe Sutton ’76, playwright

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 01/12/09 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin (603) 646-3661

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Famed actors Richard Dreyfuss (center), David Suchet (right) and Elizabeth McGovern (left) are starring in a production of the new play Complicit by Joseph Sutton '76, which opened this month at the Old Vic Theatre in London. The production is directed by Kevin Spacey.

The world premiere of Complicit, a new play by Joseph Sutton ’76, a visiting associate professor in the Dartmouth Theater Department, is scheduled to run from Jan. 7 through Feb. 21, 2009 at London’s Old Vic Theatre. Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss plays Ben Kritzer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is forced to choose between his beliefs in the freedom of the press and protecting his family when an article he writes draws the attention of a grand jury investigation.

Complicit is being directed by actor Kevin Spacey, who is also the artistic director at the Old Vic. It also stars stage and screen actress Elizabeth McGovern and British actor David Suchet, best known for his role on Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Here’s what Sutton had to say about the arts at Dartmouth, theater in London and the three powerhouse actors that are breathing life into his words.

1. What do you want people to know about Complicit?

Theater is the place where we can debate our most contentious problems and explore our greatest fears. Complicit is meant to open up such possibilities. We have lived through years, and may well face them in the future, when people in our name tortured prisoners. For that, we bear responsibility. And we owe penance. Every people in every war transgress. The mark of the health of a given society is the way it acknowledges its mistakes -- and seeks to make amends. Complicit is a marker of acknowledgement. I hope my fellow alumni and former students will experience it.

2. What inspired you to write the play on the topic you did?

We all felt a spasm of fear on 9/11, and some of us who lived in or New York may have felt something more than that. I know I did. It was then incumbent upon us to move over that feeling to have a clear-eyed view of our world. Our failure to do so, to be clear-eyed, is what gave us Abu Ghraib. That's what Complicit is about. The responsibility for American atrocities we all share.

3. How did you connect with Kevin Spacey and Richard Dreyfuss?

Kevin Spacey is the artistic director of the Old Vic and so the call from Kevin came first in his role as producer. That call was a thrilling one to receive. It was later that he suggested that he might want to direct the play. Kevin had been in a play of mine years ago and I have always admired his work. I realized his understanding of "character" would be particularly useful in the creation of the character exploration that is "Complicit.”

As for Richard, he's been a dream of mine. I have forever wanted to work with him; have often heard his voice (and particular his cadence) in my mind as I was writing. To learn that he might do this role, in this play -- where not only would his artistry be displayed, but so too would his political commitment and passion -- I could not have been more excited.

4. What do students gain from the Theater Department’s Foreign Study Program in London?

The Theater Department's London FSP is a wonderful program. What I like best about it is our students see as many as THIRTY plays in a single term. Not only are the students exposed to a wide variety of the most interesting and accomplished work in the theatre world but they begin to see theater differently. Instead of a "special event" experienced once or twice a year, the making of theater is more clearly seen as a calling and a consuming calling at that. People consider theater as a central part of their lives. I'm afraid that's not something we in America often experience.

5. What makes Dartmouth a good place to be for someone in the arts community?

Well, I have had an opportunity on several occasions to consult with folks from other departments -- and those exchanges have often proved quite helpful during the research phase of a given play's development. I have also had the opportunity to work with my friend and colleague Peter Hackett (chair of the Theater Department), both in and outside the college, and it’s been a great collaboration each time.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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