Review Fix chats with Lowell Byers, playwright of “Luft Gangster,” who discusses the origin o the production and its goals. Directed by theatre icon Austin Pendleton, it’s got the potential to be one of the most talked about productions this year.
About the Production:
Written by LOWELL BYERS
Directed by AUSTIN PENDLETON
Starring RALPH BYERS*, LOWELL BYERS*, ERIC T. MILLER*, ANDY TRUSCHINSKI*, NOEL JOSEPH ALLAIN*, SETH JAMES, PAUL BOMBA*, CASANDERA M.J. LOLLAR*, SEAN HOAGLAND*, and GABE BETTIO*.
MARCH 31 – APRIL 16, 2017 AT THE SHEEN CENTER
OPENING NIGHT IS SATURDAY, APRIL 1 AT 8 P.M.
After bailing out of his crippled B24 bomber under heavy fire from German forces, waist gunner Lou Fowler is captured by the Nazis. Incarcerated along with other Allied fliers in an inhumane Nazi prison camp, where POWs view new prisoners with suspicion as possible Nazi infiltrators, Lou has to heal his own battle injuries, as his captors treat him as just another ‘luft gangster’ – a term Joseph Goebbels created as propaganda to convince the German nation that all American flyers were criminals released from prison by the US government in order to fight in World War II.
As Lou endures the hellish and unsanitary conditions of prison camp life, subsisting on what could barely be described as food and enduring unspeakable cruelty, surviving to escape becomes his only goal. In a time and place where men on both sides of the war were stripped of all things civilized and reduced to the bare essentials of life, where a single slip of the tongue could mean death, Lou will have to rely on his faith to make it out alive.
To learn more about Luft Gangster click here.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration behind Luft Gangster?
Lowell Byers: I originally wanted to go to Columbia, South Carolina to interview my great grand Uncle Ashby Dick, regarding his WWII story. I found out that I had a cousin named Louis Fowler, who also had a WWII story. I basically divided my day up scheduling two interviews, concluding at Lou Fowler’s house that evening. He fed me dinner, and we started the interview at 9:30 PM. He kept telling me more of his experiences, and we didn’t finish until 2:00 AM. Needless to say, I felt rather guilty the next morning about keeping him up that late. I began drafting the play on the flight home to New York.
Review Fix: What are your creative goals here?
Byers: This is an important story that needs to be told. I love a good inspirational story, and this is it. Now, I just want to share it with a larger audience. With only 5% of our WWII veterans alive today, these stories are disappearing with every life that is lost. I was overwhelmed by the effect this story had on me, and believe the public will be as well.
Review Fix: Who do you think will be affected by seeing Luft Gangster the most?
Byers: I think the baby boomer generation will certainly feel a sense of nostalgia, having parents from this WWII generation. Furthermore, I hope it will affect everyone. At the heart of this play is someone who simply persevered and never lost hope, amidst the daunting odds stacked against him. He persisted, and won his freedom back. I think this play reminds us just how lucky we are to have the simple freedoms we possess in everyday life.
Review Fix: How do you want it to be remembered?
Byers: This is a play to honor the “greatest generation,” but beyond that, I want to honor the brave men and women of our armed forces who, unfortunately, don’t return home. It’s not only about one man’s perseverance to come home, but all of them. It takes an unbelievable amount of bravery to go and fight in a war, especially when the odds are against you, as they were for the US at the beginning of WWII.
Review Fix: What’s next for you?
Byers: Myself and my Cloverleaf Collective group are working on a web series based on a high school reunion. I am co-writing the piece, along with the director and co-writer Jake Diamond. I’ll also be playing one of the roles. Past that, I have a few other projects I’m working on, new plays, as well as new film scripts. I love to create new work, and to surround myself with people I enjoy working with.