On Stage

The Ghosts of Tonkin

Reliving history, with hindsight

Attend

More:

WHAT: Bellingham TheatreWorks presents The Ghosts of Tonkin
WHEN: 7:30pm Fri.-Sat., Aug. 29-30
WHERE: Bellingham High School, 2020 Cornwall Ave.
COST: $10 (free for students and veterans)
INFO: http://www.bellinghamtheatreworks.org

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From the start of Bellingham TheatreWorks’ second production, The Ghosts of Tonkin, audiences will be aware there won’t be a happy ending. That’s because the play—which can be seen Aug. 29-30 at Bellingham High School before touring in Oregon—focuses on the unfortunate origins of the Vietnam War, which would go on to kill more than two million people. We caught up with playwright Steve Lyons to find out more about the play’s subject matter—namely Oregon senator Wayne Morse, an outspoken critic of the resolution that authorized military intervention in Vietnam.

Cascadia Weekly: What was your initial interest in what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964?
Steve Lyons:I wrote The Ghosts of Tonkin in 2002. I would have never written it if we had not invaded Iraq. When the Iraq War began, people drew an analogy between the genesis of that war, and the beginnings of the Vietnam War. News media in the United States eventually asserted that the “weapons of mass destruction” of the Iraq War were the moral equivalent of the “Gulf of Tonkin” of the Vietnam War. I had no idea what they were talking about, but it made me curious to learn more about the origins of the Vietnam War. That curiosity eventually led to this script.

CW: What was the biggest catalyst for the Vietnam War?
SL: In the play, we witness a pivotal moment in history: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution senate hearing. In that hearing, Wayne Morse went toe-to-toe with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Unfortunately, McNamara won. If the senate Foreign Relations Committee had followed the advice of Morse on the morning of Aug. 4, 1964, the world in which we live would be radically different. The historic significance of what Senator Morse attempted to do—stop the Vietnam War before it started—cannot be overemphasized.

CW: How did you find a story amid all of the historical information?
SL: If my research into the genesis of the Vietnam War had simply revealed a bunch of guys in Washington D.C. making a really bad decision, I would have not written this play. It’s sad that that happened, but it is not a story. Goliath is not a story. You need David to make it a story. I found my David in the form of Senator Morse. Because Morse singlehandedly battled this monster, you now have a stage-worthy, epic story.

Finding virtue in my bad guy, Secretary of Defense McNamara, provided a real challenge. He misled us into a war that ultimately killed two million people. Part of the goal as a writer in wading through all this source material was searching for that kernel of goodness in McNamara.

CW: In the play, a character named Doris moves a lot of the action forward (even though she’s dead). What was the inspiration for her character?
SL: The spirit of Doris is strongly influenced by the real-life journey of Daniel Ellsberg, who remains an inspiration for this character.

CW: The performances will include post-play discussions with Vietnam vets and others. What do you hope will be the outcome of those discussions?
SL: I am sure this play will be very emotional for vets and anyone who was personally touched by the Vietnam War. Audience members may have had a loved one who died in Vietnam. They may have lost their legs in Vietnam. Serious, heartbreaking stuff. And then in the play you witness the casual manner in which our leaders brought this tragedy upon the country. It is infuriating. I look forward to learning from vets how (and if) they forgive such a thing and move on.

CW: This is Bellingham TheatreWorks second production. What’s in the future for the company?
SL: The driving artistic force of Bellingham TheatreWorks is artistic director Mark Kuntz. Because of his faculty position at WWU, we are limited to summer productions and perhaps a production right after Christmas break.

More On Stage...
The Norman Conquests
A trilogy of farces

When a sextet of actors dressed in garb from the 1970s showed up at my house in late September with a photographer, costume designer and a director in tow, I wasn’t quite sure what in the hell was going on.

As a series of scenarios were set up—beginning with a solo scene featuring a…

more »
Pray the Gay Away
A musical with a mission

When the curtains rise on the Theater Arts Guild’s world premiere of Conrad Askland’s Pray the Gay Away Fri., Nov. 8 at the Lincoln Theatre, audience members will find themselves witnessing a fight for human rights in Minnetonka, Minnesota in the 1980s. There, two boys subjected to the…

more »
Creative Color
Bellingham Rep’s Blush Punch

During a recent online fundraiser for Bellingham Repertory Dance, one thing became abundantly clear: The women who share their talents with audiences throughout the year aren’t hoping for a giant cash payout.

“BRD is run entirely on a volunteer basis, which means we collectively donate…

more »
Events
Today
Whatcom Food Network's Fall Forum

9:00am|Pioneer Pavilion Community Center

Back to the Books

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Bellingham at Home Informational Meeting

3:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

My Parents and Me Painting Classes

3:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Classic Italian Dinner

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Boldly Went Live Outdoor Adventure Storytelling Show

6:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Hot Vengeance

7:00pm|Village Books

Tartuffe

7:00pm|Bellingham High School

An Evening with Conrad Anker

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Pray the Gay Away

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

The Norman Conquests

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Good, Bad, Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Jansen Jazz Band

7:30pm|Jansen Art Center

Interwoven Lives

7:30pm|Village Books

Tomorrow
Tartuffe

7:00pm|Bellingham High School

Pray the Gay Away

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

The Norman Conquests

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Emergency winter housing for the homeless

8:30am

Wild Things

9:30am|Cornwall Park

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Curator's Tour

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Holiday Makers Market

4:00pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Peace Builder Awards Gala

5:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Hamster Ball

5:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Gratitude Stew

6:00pm|Peter James Studio

Vaudevillingham

7:00pm|Cirque Lab

Book Launch and Poetry Reading

7:00pm|Old Parish Hall

Butterflies and Trios

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

I Knew Her As Arachne

7:30pm|DUG Theater

Lone Piñon

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Blush Punch with Bellingham Repertory Dance

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Saturday
Tartuffe

7:00pm|Bellingham High School

Pray the Gay Away

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

The Norman Conquests

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Butterflies and Trios

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

I Knew Her As Arachne

7:30pm|DUG Theater

Blush Punch with Bellingham Repertory Dance

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

CapRun

8:00am|Thrive Community Fitness

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Community Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Blaine Senior Center

Salmon Sites

9:00am

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Stuff the Trunk for Meals on Wheels

10:00am|Haggen stores

Holiday Craft Fair

10:00am|Sudden Valley Dance Barn

Pull over for Meals on Wheels

10:00am

Veteran Benefits

10:00am|Lynden Library

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

A Home on the South Fork

3:00pm|Deming Library

Read and Share with Leif Whittaker

3:00pm|Everson Library

Artist Talk with Marc Wenet

4:00pm|i.e. gallery

Think Black

4:00pm|Village Books

Is, Is not

7:00pm|Village Books

Blue Abode Comedy Showcase

7:00pm|Blue Abode Bar

Elvis Meets Whitney

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Pearl Django

7:00pm|Walton Theatre

Lessons of the Japanese American Exclusion

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Salsa Night

9:00pm|Cafe Rumba

see our complete calendar »