A ripped-from-the-headlines political thriller

A staged reading of a taut thriller of reality based play involving a Jewish radio talk show host gunned down by followers of a racist hate group starts a seven-show, three-weekend run Friday, April 28.

“God’s Country” by Steven Dietz is the first of its three productions by Livia Genise Productions planned for this year. Written in 1988, the theatrical docudrama about the growing white supremacist movement in America, those dedicated to violent revolution and the expulsion from "God's Country" of non-Aryans, is still timely, Genise says. The play covers the right-wing lunatic fringe while focusing on three narrative storylines: the trial in Seattle of a paramilitary group which calls itself The Order; the career and death of Denver's Alan Berg, the outspoken, controversial, Jewish talk radio personality "assassinated" by The Order; and, finally, the hate-filled career and death of The Order's founder, Robert Matthews. These narratives are interwoven into a highly theatrical evening.

Directed by Genise, “God’s Country” stars Rick Robinson as Alan Berg, with a cast featuring 10 actors (David King-Gabriel, Haley Forsyth, Michael Meyer, Golda Flowers, Aubrey Campbell, Steve Sutfin, AJ Falk, Ron Delaney, Dean Jackman and Ian Wessler) playing various real-life characters: prosecuting attorneys, members of The Order and those affected by the group.

The production team for “God’s Country” includes stage manager and sound/video board operator Kathleen King. Audio/video design and narration are by Tim Kelly; Reece Bredl is the lighting designer at the Bellview Grange.

In his program notes, dramaturge Mark Ropers reflects that: “It is the dissemination of partial truths, half-facts, and out-and-out lies that allow hatred to spread. Alan Berg was known for his confrontational interview methods he used to shed light on the ugly racist underbelly of American Society. Berg began his Talk Radio show in the mid-1970s. His topics ranged from Christian hypocrisy to gun control, with his recurring theme being racism.

"The self-proclaimed 'man Denver loves to hate,' his programs were received in more than 30 states. His direct engagement with The Order angered them to the point that they gunned Berg down in front of his house in 1984. It is disturbing to think of white supremacist groups in the latter part of the 20th Century. It is disgusting to know they still exist in 2017. In March 2017, the Anti-Defamation League described 'an unprecedented outreach effort to attract and recruit students on American college campuses.'”

Says director Genise: “According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the first three years of the Obama Administration, so-called ‘Patriot' groups increased by 755 percent; the center notes that there are currently 917 hate groups still operating in the U.S. So this is not a period piece. And that is why I chose to produce it, here and now. We seem to be at some kind of crossroads here in America. Each of us has a choice going forward into this ‘new’ America: to believe that it is ‘us against them’ and act accordingly — or to believe that we are all in this together, that we ARE our Brother’s/Sister’s keeper. I invite the audience to see this play through that prism.”

Sponsored by Sally and Joe Collonge, “God’s Country” plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Bellview Grange, 975 Tolman Creek Road at Siskiyou Boulevard. The production continues at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6 and 13, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7 and 14 at the Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way.

All tickets are $15. They are available at www.LiviaGeniseProductions.org or at Paddington Station in Ashland and Grocery Outlet in Medford.

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