FORUM: Jason Grote’s Tale of Aftermathsposted on May 5th, 2010 by Joseph Rosario
Jason Grote’s 1001 was a labyrinth, full of twist and turns. The kind of play that will have you wondering until the very end how the story of Scheherazade and Shahriyar correlate to the story of Dahna and Alan. This play holds significance to myself and (I am assuming) to rest of my classmates because it takes place at a turning point in history, one that we were alive to witness. The September 11th terrorist attack imprinted a permanent image in our minds. How could anyone ever forget how devastating that day was, how devastating the months to follow were as well. Footage of the crumbling towers played on television repeatedly.
We were all affected in some way or another. It has been nine years since that day and there have been many theatrical pieces written and produced about it. One popular film is Flight 93, which tells the story of the passengers who overthrew their hijackers, and though they sacrificed themselves, saved the lives of many. Then there is World Trade Center: which tells the story of two firefighters who were trapped under masses of rocks and the remnants of the collapsed buildings. Both films are heartbreaking and painfully realistic, which is the usual style of any of the works I’ve seen so far, based on September 11th. Then there is 1001, Jason Grote’s play that takes two different worlds and fuses them together creating parallels between two couples from different eras, living under different circumstances, and facing different hardships.
Conflict exists at the beginning of the play when King Shahriyar murders 1001 women. Scheherazade plans to end his killing spree by enticing him with her lavish stories beaming with adventure and scandal. The scenes set in this time are much lighter, exciting, and exotic - whereas the modern setting takes a morbid turn. Grote’s writing demonstrates difference between the two worlds, but it is more apparent in an actual production of the play. Originally 1001 was intended to be a “trunk show,” but the production I saw at the Howard L. Fox studio had a very elaborate set consisting of three large cubes, one made of brick, one of steel and the other had a Middle-Eastern pattern. The set and the music in this production helped to distinguish which realm the show was in.
The only problem I had with the play was the loss of interest I experienced when watching Dahna and Alan interact with each other: there was no chemistry between the two contemporary characters. On the contrary, there was a lot of chemistry between Shahriyar and Scheherazade. I enjoyed the fact that Jason Grote tried to expose the audience to the wonder of the world of Shahriyar and Scheherazade and the harsh reality of Middle Eastern resentment in 2001, a moment in time where all the hostility came to a disturbing climax. I was especially happy that he didn’t exploit the events of September 11th - he just tied in the significance of that event to his plot. The end of the play was a great revelation: Scheherazade and the stories she told were part of Arabian Nights, and were all in Alan’s head because he was in a coma. That was probably my favorite part of the play because of how everything came together.
Joseph Rosario is an undergraduate student in Neil Baldwin’s Play/Script Interpretation Class. This article is posted in collaboration with the Creative Research Center’s initiative to showcase exemplary student writing.