In the Seattle of 1948 legislative hearings were called to investigate Communism in Washington State. The inquisition became an early, effective example of American politics at midcentury when Cold War anxiety escalated into hysteria, feeding what was to become known on a national level as the McCarthy era. The Canwell Committee, as it was popularly called, made a frontal assault on unsanctioned political thought and activism. Suspected Communists teaching at the University of Washington were fired, careers and reputations were smashed, a highly acclaimed theatre company was forced out of existence, livelihoods were lost and lives shattered.
All Powers Necessary and Convenient, first performed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the hearings, brings tolife personal and political dramas of several participants central to these events. The play blends dialogue drawn verbatim from transcripts, newspaper quotes, and personal interviews with scenes of fictional conjecture to examine the limits of political discourse and actions in a democracy.
Mark F. Jenkins is an actor, director, associate professor at the University of Washington School of Drama, cofounder of Freehold Theatre Lab Studio, Seattle, and cofounder of the Art Theatre of Puget Sound.