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Arts, Sports & Culture

Kennedy Presidency and Assassination Explored by Pittsburgh Playwright

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One of the events marking the occasion is a reading of the play “Noah’s Ark,” which was inspired by James Douglass’ book “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.”

The play itself, by Pittsburgh playwright Ginny Cunningham, doesn’t feature Kennedy as the main character; it centers on the character Colonel Benson, a military White House insider. Benson is a fictional character, and the play is a fictional work, but Cunningham said it’s all based on real people and real situations.

“It’s about his journey from one place to another as he moves through the Kennedy presidency and how he’s involved in it and how he influences it and is influenced by it,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham spent three years developing the work, including consulting with the author of the JFK book. Still, she wasn’t sure the play would gain much traction.

“It’s very hard to make anything happen with stage craft and plays in development, very hard,” said Cunningham. “He (Douglass) said, ‘Would you mind if I show it to Martin Sheen?’ I said, no go for it and he came back to me a few weeks later and said, ‘He really likes your play.’”

Martin Sheen will be participating in a reading of the play in Dallas on the eve of the Kennedy assassination. The play will also be read in Pittsburgh this month.

“People in six other cities jumped on it also,” Cunningham said, “so I’m having eight readings this month of this play in eight different cities.”

Those cities are Birmingham, Alabama; Erie, Royal Oak, Michigan; Seattle; New York City and Glens Falls, NY. The Pittsburgh reading will be Monday as part of Bricolage Production Company’s In the Raw series.