David Auburn: It’s sort of a long process. It partially began about eight or 10 years ago when I realized I didn’t know anything about the Vietnam War and set about the process of trying to learn about it. I read a number of histories. And the Alsop name kept popping up in footnotes. On the theory that sometimes the minor characters in the quarters of history are the most interesting characters. I read how influential and famous they (Joe and his brother, Stewart) were at the time to the world of journalism and foreign affairs – especially Joe. And it interested me how forgotten he was now. And I asked myself: How does someone go from being so central and so essential to the political dialogue to almost being forgotten? I wanted to get at what a magnetic and flamboyant and complicated person he was, how mercurial he was, how polarizing he was as an individual.
I imagine that one of the tough challenges about writing this play is that he often seems like a very tough man to like. He’s arrogant, he can be a bully, he comes off as a hawk on Vietnam who sticks his head in the sand.
David Auburn: It was one of the compelling things about him. One of the things that I read about Joe is that people had a great attachment to him despite all of the things you mentioned. I’m not really all that interested in writing about characters you like. I’m trying to put interesting characters on stage in a way that shows all their complexity. Writing about someone whose views are so different from your own and showing the complexity of that person can be difficult but it’s a challenge I like.