Four years ago, Terry Anderson scaled a mountain of legal red tape, unwittingly tweaking the geography of a government that fought his ascent. The former Associated Press bureau chief was awarded a percentage of frozen Iranian assets as a result of his Beirut capture during the Lebanon civil war-and he opened The Blue Gator, an Athens, Ohio, blues bar, with part of the $26.2 million he collected.
If you're an official in Muslim Iran, where alcohol is about as welcome as the Americans who drink it, that has gotta bite some serious patooty.
Anderson's captors released him when the 15-year conflict ended in 1991. These days, his hectic life is a world removed from the squalor of nearly seven years' detention, which inspired a play on the gamesmanship that colored it.
Lee Blessing's Two Rooms, which fictionalizes the war's violence against Westerners, centers on Professor Michael Wells. Held in Beirut for two years, Wells is the object of his wife Lainie's struggles. The play is rich with subtext on the media, the government and Lainie's haplessness between those opposing forces.
Stone Soup artistic director Rebecca Johannsen, who plays Lainie, says it also evokes thoughts of today's Middle East, where captives' fates are chillingly routine.
"We chose this play a few weeks before [the Iraq beheadings] started," Johannsen says. "As [they] continued to happen, the more we felt we had to do this particular piece. The play shows that the government doesn't have too many options when it comes to responding to terrorists."
Nonetheless, Johannsen adds, the federal establishment must never be permitted to undermine the constituencies that scrutinize it.
"Our goal in producing this play," she says, "was to encourage audiences to participate in the world around them, to have some effect, to vote, to become aware of the issues, to donate your time, instead of shutting yourself in a room."
This week marks Anderson's 57th birthday. The Ohio Democrat may have something else to celebrate soon-he's running for senator from the state's 20th district. He's established charities, written a book about his ordeal and is living the life Johannsen exhorts.
Two Rooms is testament to the horror that shaped Anderson's success. And ominously, it cites national impotence surrounding the current crop of Middle East captives, their jumpsuits abruptly bathed in crimson as a collection of monsters hoists their severed spoils before a disbelieving world.
Two Rooms will be performed Nov. 1 at SDSU's Experimental Theatre, 5500 Campanile Way. $15-$20. 760-434-1707. Proceeds will go toward an SDSU theater scholarship fund.