Broadway Bound

April 1, 2007
Universal themes: love and drama

Universal themes: love and drama. Les Todd

Imperialism, racism, forbidden love, and conflict in Central Asia were played out onstage in The Great Game, a Theater Previews at Duke production that premiered in Reynolds Theater in February.

Tony-nominated Broadway director Wilson Milam directed a professional cast in the play, written by D. Tucker Smith.

The Great Game incorporates themes with “an eerie parallel to the geopolitics of today,” says Zannie Giraud Voss, producing director of Theater Previews at Duke. “The strategic importance of Afghanistan and Pakistan is at the crux of the conflict in this story.”

“The Great Game” is a phrase coined in the nineteenth century to describe the cat-and-mouse conflict between Great Britain and Russia for supremacy in Central Asia. The historical conflict is the backdrop for the play. Set in the spring of 1870, the story focuses on the aristocratic Hayward family’s struggles to accept their son George’s new wife, an Indian woman named Safia.

While the family copes with the culture clash, Safia struggles to win over the London aristocracy in her quest to help George, who has undertaken a dangerous expedition to map parts of Central Asia. George Hayward and two of the other characters in the play are based on historical figures. Hayward was an explorer who died attempting to map the Pamir Mountains.

Theater Previews at Duke is the professional producing arm of the Department of Theater Studies. Its mission is to bring guest professionals from around the country to campus to develop new plays.

The program benefits both university and artists and provides the community with a chance to see major plays before they hit New York, Voss says. “Developing new work for the American theater is a great fit for a research university like ours.”