Radio propaganda was a major force of psychological warfare in the dark days of World War II, when broadcasters like "Tokyo Rose" and "Axis Sally" ruled the airwaves, predicting the destruction of the Allies by the Axis powers. The most famous European broadcaster to cross the wires with pro-German ranting was an Irishman, William Joyce, better known as Lord Haw Haw.
His story is the subject of Jeffrey Hatcher's new play, Hanging Lord Haw Haw, making its world premiere April 7 at Seattle's Empty Space Theatre. Opening night is set for April 12 with a run through May 13. Empty Space associate artistic director Rod Pilloud directs.
During England's Great Depression, young Joyce, the product of a working class royalist family, joined the British Union of Fascists, coming under the wing of Sir Oswald Mosley. Just before the outbreak of World War II, he and his wife traveled to Germany, where he became a part of the German broadcast team, spreading blatantly anti-Semitic messages and German victory reports to Great Britain. Derisively referred to as "Lord Haw Haw," Joyce was hung by Britain for treason, despite the fact that he was not a British national. He became the subject of the popular wartime song, "Lord Haw Haw The Humbug From Hamburg."
Hatcher weaves the historical facts of this life into a character study, love story and exploration of personal ideals and betrayal. Hatcher is best known for his Scotland Road, a small cast drama about a woman found on an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean 80 years after the Titanic went down. Other plays include Smash, Vandals and Sockdology.
Longtime Empty Space associate R. Hamilton Wright stars as Joyce. Also in the cast are David Pichette as Mosley, Stephanie Shine as Joyce's wife, Mark Anders, Steve Manning and Beth Peterson. Designing Hanging Lord Haw Haw are John Petterson (sets), Nanette Acosta (costumes), Timothy Wratten (lighting) and Eric Chappelle (sound).
Tickets are $26-$18. The Empty Space Theatre is located at 3509 Fremont North. For tickets, call (206) 547-7500. The Empty Space Theatre is on the web at http://www.emptyspace.org.
-- By Christine Ehren