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Saturday March 27, 2010 in Books


By Tim Carlson

Sharing a title with Henry Kissinger’s infamous book, Tim Carlson’s play Diplomacy is a graphic, conflict-fuelled drama with moments of heartbreak and dark humour—a reflection on the international themes that have come to define our contemporary world. Nominally about Canada and America’s active military involvement in the Middle East’s many theatres of war, it scrutinizes the part the media plays in manufacturing our private reactions to foreign policy—how the new phenomenon of “embedded journalism” has become complicit in making everything personal, political.

Roy deserted the US Army during the Vietnam War to become a historian specializing in Canadian diplomacy. His Vietnamese-born wife, Thu Van, has flashbacks to the “shock and awe” she experienced as a girl, while the new armed conflicts heat up in the Middle East where their daughter, An, serves as a Canadian diplomat in Damascus. Roy’s best friend Sinclair is an ambitious, possibly unprincipled, newsman. His interest and obvious involvement in Thu Van’s public self-immolation makes him decidedly suspect. “We don’t need a lot of martyrs but we need a few,” argues Thu Van in Sinclair’s videotape of her suicide statement.

Following the suicide protest of Thu Van, Roy’s principles are shaken: once believing his desertion was an honourable reaction to a dishonourable war, he now believes he was misguided. His grief, fury, fear and despair keep this play on its razor’s edge.

Like diplomacy itself, perhaps none of Carlson’s characters are new. But his dramatization of how our personal lives are increasingly shaped by what used to be called “public affairs” is compelling—the usefulness (or uselessness) of martyrdom certainly remains an overwhelmingly contemporary question. When Iraqi suicide bombers blow themselves up as an act of war on a daily basis, is there any practical purpose to a single Vietnamese-Canadian sacrifice in the name of peace?

Diplomacy premiered in November 2006 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

ISBN 13: 9780889226111 | ISBN 10: 889226113
5.5 W x 8.5 H x 0.25 D inches | 96 pages
$16.95 CAN / $16.95 US
Rights: World
| Drama | Bisac: DRA013000
1 Edition


It’s a rare thing—the well-argued blast of political outrage.
Globe & Mail

About the Contributors

Tim Carlson

Tim Carlson is the artistic producer of Theatre Conspiracy in Vancouver. Conspiracy’s premiere production of Omniscience (Talonbooks) was nominated for six Jessie Richardson theatre awards in 2005, including best production. The Theatre Conspiracy production of Tim’s most recent play, Diplomacy, premiered at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in November 2006. He is also the author of the one-act newsroom comedies Night Desk (2001) and The Chronicle has Hart (2000).


Tim Carlson


Tim Carlson

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