SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: Abbie Hoffman was basically Groucho Marx with a vision—at least according to playwright Herbert Siguenza, who will star as the 1960s political and social activist in his new play Steal Heaven, which runs at San Diego REPertory Theater Jan. 3–25. “He was a wise-ass,” says Siguenza of the cofounder of the Youth International Party, a.k.a. the Yippies. “All the things he was talking about—Big Brother, the lack of privacy, the bank takeover, the corporate influence on Hollywood and the White House—he predicted all of this stuff, and everybody thought he was crazy. He was ahead of his time.”
What would happen if Hoffman were around today? That’s essentially what Siguenza posits, as he sets the play in heaven with Hoffman training potential activists to go back down to Earth and make change. When a young veteran-turned-activist finds herself at the pearly gates, Hoffman attempts to teach her his ways, only to find he’s confounded by how advances in technology have changed activism. “We’re so dependent on our devices,” Siguenza laments. “We can’t even start a revolution without our iPhones.”
With recent protests on Occupy Wall Street and in Ferguson, Mo., the play’s subject matter may seem anything but funny, but Siguenza explains that the REP’s goal is to find the humor in tough issues. “That’s always been our forté—taking hard issues and just showing the ridiculousness of them,” he says. “If you’re able to do that, people will respond.”
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