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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Christopher Durang’s hit new play Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them sparkles with classic Durang wit and satirizes with the force Durang possesses at his best, but also reveals troubling limits to how our theatre seems to be able to contemplate violence. Durang understands that torture involves a set of performance relations and makes use of many theatrical elements, but the play first insists on the real violence at the heart of that performance and then turns away from it. Along the way, Why Torture is Wrong… provides a clear example of an ostensibly anti-torture work that fails to account for a broader context of human violence.

(Photo from

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When the CIA says “sleep deprivation,” they mean forced shackling and forced positions, suspension, production of swelling in the lower extremities, disorientation and fear, humiliation, diet manipulation and slow starvation, along with forced wakefulness.(Firedoglake » Torture: What’s in a Name? It Was Never Just “Sleep Deprivation”)

This important post by Jeff Kaye (drawing on reporting from the LA Times and Washington Independent) establishes clearly why, as Kaye says, we must always write the term “sleep deprivation” in scare quotes. This is an important general principle of how “stealth” techniques (what Rejali calls “clean” tortures) work: even if discovered–and here we are having the absurd discussion of sleep deprivation as if it were not in and of itself a torture technique–they mask the violent regime performed to enact them behind the theatrical front of something so quotidian that a casual glance cannot recognize it as torture.

We have failed as a nation in allowing torture. We will fail again if we don’t learn the full story and prosecute where appropriate as many of the guilty as possible.

[Vagabond Scholar: Torture Versus Freedom]

Blogs are producing much of the best writing about the current torture narratives in the US. Firedoglake is a group blog that is very strong on the political angles, and Balkinazation is often an excellent source of legal analysis and features a collection of “Anti-Torture Memos” by law prof Jack Balkin and others. There are many others; the above post from Vagabond Scholar is a nearly comprehensive bibliography and link-dump as well as a clearly reasoned, if impassioned, argument for investigations and prosecutions.

There’s been so much going on related to the overall project and to the performance that I haven’t managed to post about any of it (and, as usual, other projects have demanded attention), but the time in BsAs has moved Dark Room forward in numerous ways, including the inspiring, intriguing and occasionally perplexing theatre I’ve seen here. Read More »