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How a Revolutionary New Play Takes Aim at President Trump’s Immigration Policies

2 minute read

In Robert Schenkkan’s new play “Building the Wall,” it’s 2019 and America is a dystopia under President Donald Trump. Schenkkan says he took inspiration for this work from the “kind of rhetoric that we were hearing, and continue to hear, in regards to border security and immigration.”

Schenkkan, a Pulitzer and Tony prize-winning playwright, wrote a first draft in just a week. The play’s concept is simple — a conversation between Rick, a middle-aged white man imprisoned for an (initially) unknown crime, and his interviewer Gloria, an African-American history professor. In the 90-minute piece, the two individuals wrestle with history as they try to understand what happened to America.

“Building the Wall” opened at New York City’s New World Stages on May 21, 2017 and will play through July 9, 2017. Other productions have already opened in Los Angeles, Denver, Portland, Washington, D.C., and Santa Clara. Schenkkan says he hopes the play’s rapid distribution will serve as a model for future plays. “If theater continues to produce art in its normal way, where you commission a play, it takes 3 or 5 months, if you’re lucky, to get it written, and then another year-and-a-half of development before it finally arrives on the stage. That will be too late,” Schenkkan said. “We’re either going to be making history or we’re going to be curating history.

This interview with Schenkkan is part of TIME’s new series, State of the Art, which explores how artists of all kinds are addressing America’s political upheaval.

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Write to Julia Lull at julia.lull@time.com