Columbus Makes Art Presents Herb Brown and The Price of Power
Columbus resident Herb Brown, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice, is also a playwright and author. CATCO will present a reading of his most recent play, The Price of Power, which focuses on former President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, and J. Edgar Hoover Feb. 8, 2020.
Brown has written seven plays, three of them world premieres produced by CATCO: You’re My Boy in 2005; The Final Table in 2015; and Henry Ford’s Model E in 2017. The Power of God was featured in CATCO’s Shorts Festival 2002. He is also working on an eighth play, The Duchess. His novels include Shadow of Doubt and Presumption of Guilt. Presumption rose to number 10 on the Doubleday national bestseller list and Shadow was a selection of the Literary Guild.
Brown’s plays stem from an interest in bringing intriguing history to life on the stage. No matter the era, you can discover a contemporary hook in almost all of it, he says: “History certainly does repeat itself, although the repetition comes with different personages (characters) and somewhat different manifestations.”
Sarah: What about this specific topic inspired you to write your most recent play?
Herb: Power has interest because it reveals much about JFK and his brother (RFK), as well as J. Edgar Hoover – all interesting and significant historic people. But the real reason I turned to this piece of history is that it highlights the conflict between loyalty to the president and loyalty to the country. And the dynamic between a president, his attorney general and the director of the FBI is at the heart of the political storm which has been unfolding since the 2016 election.
Sarah: Why is it important now?
Herb: The conflict couldn’t be more relevant than it is today. Moreover, it is inherent in the relationship between a president and his/her appointees. This conflict has existed from the time of George Washington. In the case of Hoover v. the Kennedys, there was a balance of power. Hoover knew enough to bring Kennedy down and he knew how to use what he had. But Kennedy had the power to fire Hoover and Hoover had to be wary of that. I think this makes for riveting drama, as well as leading an audience to ponder important questions about the way our government functions at its highest level.
Sarah: What do you hope viewers will take away?
Herb: My hope is that it will lead to a nuanced examination of where the line should be drawn between “loyalty” to a person and adherence to the oath taken to uphold the law and the Constitution. And for the audience to consider the line where demands for loyalty can rise to the level of impeachment; where those demands require an appointee to break the law.
Sarah: Could you please briefly describe your process for writing plays?
Herb: It starts with an intriguing story. In the case of Power, the relationship between Hoover and the Kennedys had interest for me. Then I explore the topic to see if it has the potential to become a play. If the answer is yes, then I begin my research. As I read and take notes, I begin to outline the shape of scenes. As the play grows, I discard materials that make it too cumbersome or irrelevant to the conflict. The next stage is to reorder the scenes and revise the dialog.
Sarah: What’s your favorite thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
Herb: I am impressed by the increase in “arts” experiences now available in the greater Columbus area; in particular, the growth in the amount and quality of live theater.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.