Professor of English William Cook’s latest work, “The Agony of Colin Powell,” will premiere in three performances staged at the University of La Verne this weekend. The one-act play presents Colin Powell as a fictional character representing “Everyman” dealing with the conflict between duty and self.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran actor Tyrone Wilson brings to life the agony of the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, allowing the audience to feel his pain as he relives the loss of what he might have been.
“The play starts off as Powell comes back from a newscast where he explained the administration’s kidnapping of Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide,” Cook said.
“Powell laments, ‘Will this never end?’ and that’s the beginning of the play. It would be, in psychological terms, journeying into higher consciousness and exploring yourself.”
Cook wrote the play in 2004 and just last year contacted Wilson via email about taking the role.
Wilson immediately took a liking to it and agreed to take it on. He then approached director Desdemona Chiang to help shape the project.
“Tyrone and I starting doing text analysis on the play back in late August of this year,” Chiang said.
“We spent a couple of weeks dissecting the script, trying to unlock the meanings behind the words and lines”
Wilson, who has been a Festival actor for 19 years, has a significant amount of experience to take on the show, which is written entirely in verse.
“It’s an interesting show because it’s basically an epic poem, which is unusual to typical audiences,” Wilson said.
“It’s more used in Greek plays or Shakespearian plays; epic poems are things that just aren’t done onstage anymore,” he said.
Together the trio spent all year working on the show and now they are ready to present it to the public this weekend at La Verne.
“I hope people get to understand a little bit more about the decisions that he made and get through the more complex, even paradoxical parts of Powell’s personality,” Wilson said.
“To have depth and understanding having to do with the man, as well as the politics at the time,” he said.
“I want people to walk away with a sense of self responsibility,” Cook said.
“It requires that you deal with what you understand to be a moral behavior based on what is right and what is wrong, because ultimately that’s what your world is. It determines what you’re fighting for.”
“The Agony of Colin Powell” will be shown at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and at 2 p.m. Sunday in Morgan Auditorium. Student admission is free, with a suggested $10 donation at the door.
Alison Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.