photo courtesy of Carlyle Brown & Co.
In Carlyle Brown’s Are You Now or Have You Ever Been . . ., it’s 1953, the eve of Negro writer Langston Hughes having to answer Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s accusations of being a communist. Unable to sleep, Hughes struggles with his testimony. He addresses the audience, but an impulse to write a poem interrupts the action. This morphs into the McCarthy hearings, where his words come back to haunt him. “The intrusive nature of McCarthy’s political conservatism has a long tradition that hasn’t gone away and isn’t going away,” Brown says of his chosen subject matter.
Ben McGovern, former associate director of studio programming at the Guthrie, saw a workshop production at Pillsbury House Theatre and thought the play deserved a broader audience. “When I look at the play, I can’t tell where Langston ends and I begin,” says McGovern. At its core, the play is about “the struggle between writing your deepest meaning and making a living.” May 4–20. Guthrie Theater, 612-377-2224, guthrietheater.org