The People’s Temple 10/06–10/22Buy Tickets
FERNDALE—During a time of social and political upheaval, a unconventional leader emerges to lead a group of loyal and passionate followers to an unlikely end. The leader is Jim Jones, the group is The Peoples Temple, the ending is a tragedy where on November 18 1978, 918 Americans died in the jungles of Guyana in a place named Jonestown. Puzzle Piece Theatre begins its fifth season with the Michigan premiere of The People’s Temple by Emmy-nominated Leigh Fondakowski, best known as the head writer of “The Laramie Project”. The production runs from October 6–22. Performances are at 8:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:00 pm on Sundays. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on the company’s website at www.puzzlestage.org.
Many know this as a story of mass suicide where crazed cultists assassinated a congressman and then drank poisoned kool-aid, but there is much more to be told. In her play, The People’s Temple, which premiered at the Berkeley Repertory theatre in 2005, playwright Leigh Fondakowski and her collaborators spent three years and hundreds of hours conducting interviews with those that survived and the relatives of those who died. The result is a docu-drama form of theater that preserves the humanity of a group of socially conscious individuals who wanted to leave the world a better place. For Puzzle Piece’s production Ms. Fondakowski will be updating her script with new material.
“When people hear the words “Peoples Temple” or “Jonestown”, the general assumption becomes one where the victims are all painted as mindless lemmings who follow Jim Jones to their deaths. This tendency to marginalize those who died couldn’t be further from the truth.” says D.B. Schroeder, the play’s director and Puzzle Piece’s producing artistic director. “The play that Ms. Fondakowski has crafted is one that illuminates how extremism can creep into acceptance, and suddenly original supporters have become trapped by something they never agreed to or expected. The pavilion in Jonestown had a sign that read ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ I can’t think of a play more relevant to bring to the stage at this particular moment in time.”