‘Enron’ a Showcase of Substance and Spectacle
By Bill Grennan, KVNO News
August 13th, 2014
Omaha, NE — The first show in the Omaha Playhouse’s new season deals with corruption, deceit, and dinosaurs.[audio:http://www.kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Enron-Web.mp3]
When it comes to corporate greed, few names are as synonymous as Enron. The corporation made headlines in 2001 when it was discovered that the company was using extremely institutionalized systems of fraud to claim billion of dollars in profits year after year. Now, the Omaha Playhouse is tackling the maze of crooked business practices in a way that only theatre can with their upcoming production of Enron by Lucy Prebble.
When it comes to a complex financial scandal like this, director Kimberly Faith Hickman knew everyone working on the project had to understand its intricacies.
“I’m really very big into research, especially for plays that have a historical foundation to them,” Hickman said. “After our readthrough, we had a lot of discussion about the research. The research I had done I shared in an ‘Enron Bible’ that’s in our rehearsal room.”
Actors and Raptors of Enron
That research set the ground floor for actors and designers. The play’s genius comes in how it explains this labyrinth of crooked business practices. The show is full of theatrical spectacle. For example, when the CFO of Enron, Andrew Fastow, came up with the company’s systems of financial fraud, he nicknamed them ‘Raptors’. When the character Andy Fastow discovers the systems, they’re actually raptors. Well, at least businessmen with Raptor heads.
That’s just one piece of the financial sideshow Enron uses. The Lehman Brothers are conjoined twins. Day traders do intricate dance steps of marketsharing. Even the California blackouts caused by Enron are explained with Lightsabers.
“You hear about the blackouts,” she said. “You can watch news footage of the blackouts but when you have something in your hands, a Lightsaber, which our props designer Darin Kuehler made and they’re awesome! You can literally show how that happened. The movement and the props are used to illustrate the truth of the text. I think it’s a really good way for the audience to have access into what happened. It does explain corporate finance and corporate fraud in a really accessible way.”
This is Hickman’s first time directing at the Omaha Playhouse. She said the process of finding the show’s voice with her actors and designers has been a very memorable one.
“It’s just been a lot of fun,” she said. “The cast has been really game and very brave to just go for it. As absurd as it is, a lot of the time because focus some much on the truthfulness of the story and what happened, it really ground the absurdity in a really fantastic way that I think the audience will be able to follow very easily.”
Perhaps the most telling thing about a show like Enron is the fact that even though this scandal happened more than 2 decades ago, it still feels like it could have happened yesterday. Hickman hopes the play can show audiences how much, or how little, has changed in how our corporate institutions operate.
“If you are able to take in the story and what happened and realize that this isn’t that dated of a tale,” she said. “These practices are still going on. What have we learned from it? I don’t really know. Time will tell. There are a lot of things still happening now that happened then in the financial world. What have we learned from it? I don’t know if we have an answer yet. But I think it’s something the play asks.”
The Omaha Playhouse’s production of Enron by Lucy Prebble will open August 15th and run through September 14th. For more information on the production, visit www.omahaplayhouse.com.
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