Can Playwright Rajiv Joseph Cure Our Fake News Sickness?

We're not the first nation to face propaganda from a government prone to lies and deceit.

David Birrell in a scene from Rajiv Joseph's "Describe the Night" at London's Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner.

On this episode of The Scene, my guest is playwright Rajiv Joseph. In recent years, he has made (decidedly not fake) news at the Obie Awards, winning Best New American Play in 2016 for Guards at the Taj, and again last month for Describe the Night. He was a Pulitzer nominee in 2010 for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which ran on Broadway starring Robin Williams, and among his other plays are Gruesome Playground Injuries, Animals Out of Paper and The North Pool. His screenwriting credits include the films Draft Day with Kevin Costner, Army of One with Nicolas Cage and several seasons as a writer for Nurse Jackie.

Rajiv Joseph
Playwright Rajiv Joseph. Photo: Mark Kitaoka.

For this episode we’ll focus on Describe the Night, a drama spanning 90 years of Russian history, and Guards at the Taj, now playing at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in a remount of the NYC production. I’ll let Joseph explain their plots himself, but for anyone curious about how our country can move forward from its crisis of fake news, this is the episode for you. Joseph reminds us that we’re far from the first nation to deal with propaganda or a government prone to lies and deceit, and that American history is often more of a mythology than a true series of events. Joseph and I also discuss his real experiences at the Taj Mahal — including a trip he took with Guards at the Taj actors Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed — and why it’s tough to be a Cleveland sports fan in Brooklyn.

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