by Lawrence Wright
directed by Molly Smith
originally produced at Arena Stage,
March 21, 2014
through May 4, 2014
Sixty-two miles north of Washington, DC, nestled in Catoctin Mountain Park, lies the clandestine retreat known as Camp David. For thirteen tumultuous days, President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn host Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in an attempt to create the impossible: Peace in the Middle East. How could such a massive thing be done in such a short amount of time? Artistic Director Molly Smith directs the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright's incredible new play based on incredibly true events.
In the history of American peacemaking in the Middle East, there is only one enduring success: the Camp David accords, signed on Sept. 17, 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, which established the framework for peace between Egypt and Israel that has held to this day. Neither side had thought peace possible, nor even desirable, yet Carter was able to persuade the warring parties that the alternatives would be catastrophic. This is the premise of Camp David, a world-premiere play by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright that uncovers the 13 days of closeted negotiations in which three men wrestled with the most difficult issues of their time and ultimately triumphed. This intimate account of the days at Camp David is told solely through the eyes of the four people most deeply involved: President Jimmy Carter, First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. This will not be a dry recitation of the public record; instead, drawing from personal experiences, Mr. Wright will illuminate for the stage some of the highest—and lowest— emotional moments of these events.
Camp David captures a momentous shift in American and global history and portrays this story onstage for the first time. As his laudable journalistic career would suggest, Larry has completely immersed himself in researching this historical moment for how best to unravel the story onstage. The end result will be an outstanding new play that is sure to become a classic in the American canon. In fact, Camp David will be the second installment of Arena Stage’s Presidents Project—a multi-year cycle in which playwrights and ensembles will develop work inspired by the lives and legacies of our nation’s presidents. Tazewell Thompson’s Mary T. & Lizzy K., which premieres at Arena in March 2013, is the first piece of the Presidents Project, and additional productions will be announced at a later date.
Despite each of their personal complexities and flaws, these three international leaders brokered a peace at Camp David that has lasted for more than 30 years. The Camp David story shows us that peace really is possible if leaders are willing to break through their prejudices and fears and move toward each other in a spirit of trust. Now through this premiere at Arena Stage, their historic achievements may be shown to a new generation whose primary understanding of the Middle East exists through the too frequently failed attempts of modern diplomacy. The journey of these three men who put their reputations, their legacies and their lives on the line shifts from optimism to despair, and finally to triumph.
Arena is currently planning a three-week rehearsal period for Camp David and thus requested support from the Edgerton Foundation to help finance a fourth week of rehearsals for this project, to allow for additional technical rehearsals and the chance to continue working on the script. Funding from the Foundation will help to offset the housing and production costs for designers, cast, crew and staff during that time. Arena is also planning an additional week of preview performances to give Camp David ample time to develop in front of audiences prior to being critically reviewed for the first time, and asked the Edgerton Foundation to consider providing partial funding for the designer and consultant fees, as well as partial housing costs, to help support the significant growth that a second week of previews will afford.
Director: Molly Smith
Set Design: Walt Spangler
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Costume Design: Paul Tazwell
Projection Designer: Jeff Sugg
Stage Manager: Susan R. White
Assistant Stage Manager: Michael Ward