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Cheney, Libby in New Play at Will Geer: fictional back-channel talks to remove Saddam

Inspired by news reports of back-channel negotiations between Saddam Hussein’s government and the Bush administration prior to the US invasion of Iraq, a Los Angeles playwright has written a fictional account of these negotiations, featuring the characters of Vice-President Dick Cheney and “Scooter” Libby, who play a pivotal role in quashing any deal for peace.

Back-Channel by Hoyt Hilsman focuses on an American intelligence officer who unwittingly becomes the point of contact through an Iraqi diplomat who is an old friend and colleague. The American official’s life, both professional and personal, is thrown into conflict when he reports the contact to the office of the Vice-President. Cheney’s Chief of Staff “Scooter” Libby is also featured as an offstage character in this fictional work.

Coincidentally, Hilsman and Libby were classmates at both Phillips Academy Andover and Columbia Law School.

A playwright and screenwriter who has been active in national politics, Hilsman wrote the play last year after reading news reports of secret overtures from Iraq to avert the war in the months prior to the US invasion.

“I wrote it out of frustration with the Bush administration’s stated premise that it had done everything possible to avert war,” he explains. “Clearly there were attempts, both diplomatically and through back channels, to try to reach some resolution short of invasion. But it is equally clear that the US government rebuffed all such attempts.”

Hilsman’s plays have been produced in theaters in the US and abroad. He has written screenplays for New Line, Sony, Disney, ABC and others. He has also been a theater and television critic for DAILY VARIETY and has taught playwriting and screenwriting at the UCLA Writer’s Program. His television script, Foggy Bottom, a coming-of-age story set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was honored at the 2005 Slamdance Film Festival.

A staged reading of Back-Channel will be performed on Sunday, November 6, at 2 p.m., at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga. Admission is free.The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Topanga.

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