About the Play
“All tragedies deal with fated meetings; how else could there be a play? Fate deals its stroke; sorrow is purged, or turned to rejoicing; there is death, or triumph; there has been a meeting, and a change. No one will ever make a tragedy – and that is as well, for one could not bear it – whose grief is that the principals never met.”
– Mary Renault, ‘The Mask of Apollo’
If Harry S. Truman and Albert Einstein had met, would history be different?
The Realm of Whispering Ghosts, a new play by Seattle playwright K.C. Brown, explores an alternate reality in which they could meet. Tomiko, a young Japanese woman who died in the bombing of Hiroshima, and Frank, an American who met her when he was a prisoner of war, set out to alter the course of events from their position in bardo (the Buddhist afterlife), outside time and space. But their efforts do not go as planned, and may have unintended consequences.
It is not necessarily easy to change history, as they learn – nor even to determine what is right and what is wrong. The play explores the consequences, sometimes tragic, of missed communication and misunderstanding.
The idea for the piece was born in a history class at Seattle's Bush School. Students learning about the Manhattan Project are assigned the roles of different scientists, military figures and politicians. Their final class consists of the ‘Truman Briefing,’ where they gather to present their case to the President. Seattle appellate lawyer Mike King has, for several years, made an appearance at these briefings in the figure of Harry S. Truman. Depending on the strength of the arguments presented to him, he either decides to drop the first atomic bomb – or not.
King, a history buff (and Truman lookalike), was struck by the fact that such a comprehensive presidential briefing on this subject never actually occurred. When a friend introduced him to Arne Zaslove (an Einstein lookalike), they conceived the idea of developing a play whic would address this, and examine the political process involved in making a decision of such momentous impact.
After a year of discussion and exploration, they invited K.C. Brown to write a script, which then went through a year of further development with two staged readings. Audience members responded strongly to the moral dilemmas posed in the play, and some told their own stories of family members involved in the war.