The artist Hasan Elahi was detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and subjected to six months of questioning by the FBI. Elahi comes from Bangladesh, and the FBI was very interested in his travel itineraries. Eventually, after a harrowing series of interrogations, the FBI released him. But Elahi retaliated by providing the FBI – and anyone else who is interested – with a barrage of information about his life. With GPS and videos and text, he has meticulously documented all the places that he has been since the FBI first pulled him in.
In his novel The Circle, Dave Eggers takes this concept of voluntary surveillance to the next level. Characters in the novel wear small video cameras around their necks to record every moment and conversation in an effort to promote full “transparency.” Millions of viewers watch this ultimate reality show on the web and interact through social media.
Both Elahi and Eggers exaggerate our current reality of surveillance – but not by much. We don’t live under totalitarianism. Rather, we have created a system I call “participatory totalitarianism.” We got rid of the Big Brother of George Orwell’s novel and replaced it with the TV show Big Brother. “In this reality TV show, the public watches what goes on inside a house fully monitored by surveillance cameras,” I’ve written. “But here’s the twist: we are both voyeurs and exhibitionists, for we have also turned the cameras on ourselves so that the surveillance can be mutual. We don’t just like to watch, like Chance the gardener in Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There. We like to be watched as well.”
And this is what my new play Interrogation is all about. It’s a cautionary tale about this new world of surveillance cameras and GPS locators and omnipresent social media. It all sounds pretty grim. But Interrogation is a comedy. Well, a dark comedy. Think of it as Dr. Strangelove for the Snowden era: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the NSA. Oh, and we’re also offering door prizes.
Interrogation is my sixth Capital Fringe production in six years. It also marks my return to the stage as a performer after a two-year hiatus.
My previous shows – Krapp’s Last Power Point, Edible Rex, The Bird, The Pundit, and The Politician – have all played to packed houses and received favorable reviews. DCTheatreScene gave four out of five of my last productions its highest mark and “pick of the Fringe” designation. DC Broadway said that last year’s The Politician was “a brilliant mix of theater and politics. ‘Go, just go….’” The Washington Post said that The Pundit “deflates its target with a sharp satiric pin,” and the Washington City Paper wrote that “Feffer is a brilliant writer and performer” in its review of Edible Rex.
In my day job, I’m a foreign policy analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, DC thinktank. I was recently an Open Society Foundation fellow looking at Eastern Europe 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. My latest book, Crusade 2.0, was recently released by City Lights Books & was highlighted on CSPAN BookTV in May 2012. My article “My Backlogged Pages,” was published in The New York Times, and an excerpt from Edible Rex & my article on Jeju Island were both published by The Washington Post.
Interrogation is onstage at the Mountain – 900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC
Performances are: July 10 @ 8:30pm, Saturday, July 12 @ 10:15pm, Friday, July 18 @ 8:15pm
Sunday, July 20 @ 4:00pm, Thursday, July 24 @ 6:00pm and Saturday, July 26 @ 1:00pm
Details and tickets or call 866-811-4111.