Genocide topic of play staged Saturday at Ballroom event
By MARK GLOVER
MARFA – The screenplay “Cutter” was one of five of more than 6,000 submissions to win the prestigious 2011 Nichols Fellowship in Screenwriting award and was subsequently chosen by Ballroom Marfa’s Filmmakers Selection Committee to be presented in the second annual “The Reading” this Saturday at the Crowley Theatre in Marfa.
Author Dion Cook said the genesis of the play happened as he watched a “dry” documentary on the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
“It was a five second clip of a Tutsi man being mobbed,” said Cook, sitting in Crowley Theatre. “I couldn’t get that man out of my head. It haunted me. That was the catalyst. Then I began to study the Rwandan genocide, and the whole thing began to roll as a movie inside my head.”
In a three-month period in 1994, more than 850,000 people were murdered in the equatorial African nation.
“There is ferocity of violence. It took me to places I wasn’t sure I wanted to go,” Cook said. “Nobody was spared over there. Children were shot, and you rarely see that in film.”
I break the rules sometimes,” he said as a freight train rumbled by.
The Reading will be directed John S. Davies of Dallas. The actors are also from Dallas and the event is produced by Carolyn Pfeiffer and Nancy Sanders.
According to Pfeiffer, Fred Curchack of Dallas will bring his “Shadow Maker,” a choreographing tool that deglazes the violence by projecting silhouettes across stage scrim.
“I’m not sure how it works, but I’m curious,” said Cook, with a quick grin.
In another life, Cook was a coach-therapist for autistic adults.
“I really cared about them,” Cook said peering through titanium frame glasses. “They are prone to exploitation. People take advantage of them. I’ve seen more than one life savings drained.”
Cook now lives in Altus, Oklahoma.
“It’s a great place to write,” said Cook. “Not much goes on there.”
Cook is a people watcher and attributes this to his knack for writing dialogue.
“You have to get the cadence in dialogue and of course make every word count in a screenplay,” he said. “It’s like a tapestry, no superfluous material and it has to sound natural.”
He attributes his mother with the role of “saint” and planting in him an early curio for story.
“She wouldn’t buy me toys, but she’d spend her last dime to buy me a book,” Cook said. “I think promoting reading is the single most important thing a parent can do for a child.”
Today, along with books, Cook has a library of more than 900 movies.
“I’m a student of movies and movie production. I love the background story and documentaries about making the films.”
His favorites are “Taxi Driver,” “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind,” and the 1929 silent version of “The Passion of Joan of Arc.”
“Probably the best female acting role in all of movie history,” he said.
He’s also a fan of Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.”
“It examines the act of violence not only upon the recipient but also the offender,” he said. “There are ramifications. In ‘Cutter’, too, being hacked to death by machete, it’s a terrible way to die and for the community, committing this offense also has ramifications.”
The screenplay juxtaposes Rwanda and an emergency room at a hospital in Miami.
“At the end of the day,” Cook said,” it’s a dramatic 100 day reenactment of one man’s story and how far he goes to save a loved one.”
Story filed under: Arts