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Theater: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

April 19th, 2007 · 1 Comment · Culture, Foreign Policy, News, Peace, Performance, Theater

TigerIndian-American playwright Rajiv Joseph has a new play opening off Broadway this week. It’s called Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and it tells the story of the “shock and awe” campaign in Baghdad as seen through the eyes of a “ratty old Bengal tiger caged in the bombed-out Baghdad zoo.”

Joseph told DNA he was moved to write Bengal Tiger which takes his audience into a Kafkaesque Iraq following two American soldiers, a talking tiger and an Iraqi translator after he read a news item.

“An Associated Press story reported how American bombs had blown apart the Baghdad Zoo in 2003. The animals escaped — the lions literally ran through the streets during a blazing gun battle and were shot and killed by US Marines,” said Joseph.

“An American soldier stationed inside the zoo to guard it felt sorry for a hungry caged Bengal tiger and tried to feed it. The tiger bit off his hand. The other soldier promptly shot and killed the tiger. That was the end of the article. I read this absurd story and was really touched and haunted by it,” added the 32-year-old playwright, who teaches writing at New York University.

As the show’s protagonist, the tiger speaks directly to the audience, telling them “how much his life sucks,” according to the playwright:

“At one point, the tiger talks about cruelty and how years ago, when he was living in the Sundarbans, he killed two children. He ate them and caused misery to the parents. But he insists it wasn’t cruel, it was lunch. Yet, now children are being killed in Baghdad for no reason half as good as lunch.”

A brilliant line, and all too true.

I’m hoping there will be a Chicago production of this eventually — I’d love to see it.

(h/t Norm Sloan)


One Comment so far ↓

  • Aaron

    I feel so sorry for the animals in war zones. Talk about your innocent victims. And captive animals! Even worse…

    In a broader sense, our relationship with animals takes such diverse forms. I and my parents were probably the most sentimental of all pet owners–we couldn’t have them put to sleep, even when they were old and sick. We just couldn’t (except one, who had cancer). The rest of our family loved their pets, but more pragmatically. My cousin was bitten on the face by the family dog when she was 8, requiring several stitches. Her parents put that dog down faster than Dawn Davenport! But I’m a softie–I could never do it. That’s why I won’t have kids–in case the dog accidentally hurts them and I’ll have to divide my loyalty. (Yeah–that’s the reason!)