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Gerald Carpenter: Center Stage Drama Will Take Us on ‘A Walk in the Woods’

From Aug. 18 through Sept. 2, at Center Stage Theater (upstairs at Paseo Nuevo Mall), the DIJO Theater Company offers a new production of Lee Blessing's 1988 play, A Walk in the Woods, starring Ed Giron and Bill Waxman.

The Center Stage website says this about the production:

"A timely, emotionally charged, and humorous play about two nuclear arms negotiators during the Cold War, A Walk in the Woods tells the story of two diplomats, one an experienced Russian arms treaty negotiator (Ed Giron), the other an idealistic American (Bill Waxman).

"Based on a real incident that took place in the woods outside of Geneva, Switzerland, in 1982, it portrays how these two men exited the formal proceedings of a nuclear arms nonproliferation meeting between the superpowers to take the title’s “walk in the woods," getting to know each other as people.

"In the process, they develop a new strategy for de-escalating the mutual buildup of weapons of mass destruction."

Diplomats enjoy but sporadic respect from the communities they represent. Mostly, they do their work anonymously, behind closed doors, and only in the case of a rare and spectacular success do they emerge into the Kliegg lights of public attention.

Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639), who served on many diplomatic missions for his sovereigns King James I and King Charles I, famously defined a diplomat as "an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country."

(Wotton's own standards of honesty were as flexible as those of most aristocrats of his time — or ours: in 1593, he was a guest for several months in the Geneva home of the great scholar, Isaac Casaubon, ran up a huge tab with the local merchants, then moved on, leaving the impecunious Casaubon to foot the bill.)

Diplomacy itself has a similarly spotty reputation. Only when the 20th century was well underway did it cease to be the exclusive province of the well-born and expensively educated.

The untitled, though by no means uneducated, had their first shot at a big international treaty in Paris, 1919, and the result, the Treaty of Versailles, proved to be a colossal time bomb that made the world safe for Hitler and Mussolini before it blew up in everybody's face on Sept. 1, 1939.

The treaty's one (potentially) positive achievement, the creation — at the urging of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson — of the League of Nations, in Geneva, was destined to impotence and failure when the U.S. Senate refused to ratify our entrance to the League.

In 1832, Carl von Clausewitz declared war to be "a continuation of diplomacy carried on by other means."

During the period known as "the Cold War" (1946-1991), when any shooting war involving the overt participation of all the super powers became increasingly likely to wipe out life on Earth, one would be justified in reversing this formulation to read that diplomacy was war carried on by other means.

Now that we seem committed to reverting to Clausewitz's original paradigm (if not to the abandonment of diplomacy altogether), it will be good to take another look at Blessing's play for a reminder of how diplomacy should work — and to reconfirm that, global or local, everything important is personal.

A Walk in the Woods shows at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $24 general, $21 students and seniors, and $18 for groups of 10 or more.

Tickets are available at the Center Stage box office, by phone, 963-0408, or on line at www.centerstagetheater.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S37000004JRyjEAG.

Select performances include a post-show conversation with leadership from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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