A few images from the first stage rehearsal of “Devils at Play”, courtesy of Ballroom’s Jennifer Trammell. Click here to RSVP and secure a seat for one of the two free performances this Saturday at the Crowley.
Tender is the hand which holds the stone of memory — Kenneth Tam
26 Oct 2022 – 7 May 2023
“Scott: Let’s talk about your Nicholl winning script “Devils At Play.” Here’s a logline I found for it:
“In the Soviet Union, 1937, a worker of the People’s Commissariat for internal affairs finds a list of traitors, which he thinks is going to be his way out.”
What was the inspiration for this story?
James: I was cramming for a mid‑term for a Soviet history course at NYU. I was reading a book by Robert Conquest called “The Great Terror”. There is a chapter in there where Conquest breaks down what the arrest process was like. When you’re arrested, how many people could you expect to share your prison cell? What were the strip searches like? When you were interrogated, what were the sort of methods they would use?
Reading that, reading the details, I started to see flashes of the story. It was inspiring, but it was a script that I knew would take a very long time to research. I didn’t have the time to devote to this project until I graduated and received the WGAE Fellowship.
Scott: Putting on a conventional wisdom hat, right? You’ve got a period piece set in the Soviet Union in the 30′s. You got a deeply flawed protagonist. There’s a lot of violence, and torture. There’s no real love interest per say. You used flashbacks, which some people in Hollywood aren’t fond of. The conclusion, which is beautifully realized, is definitely not your typical Hollywood happy ending. Were you aware that this script was cutting against conventional wisdom on so many fronts?
James: To be honest, I didn’t think about that. I just tried to tell a story to the best of my ability. I think it becomes problematic for us as screenwriters to create only what we think is going to sell, or only what we think is going to attract attention. It’s better just to write as well as you can, and hope that it creates opportunities for you afterwards. At the end of the day, you just have to tell the stories you want to see on film. That will be your best writing.”
The Reading takes place this Saturday, 18 May 2013 at the Crowley Theater here in Marfa. Click here for more information and to RSVP for this free happening.
Doug Pullen of the El Paso Times talks with “Devils at Play” screenwriter James DiLapo. An excerpt …
“Set in 1937, “Devils at Play” revolves around Stepan, a detective with the NKVD, the Soviets’ secret police, whose discovery of a list of traitors could be his way out his morally bankrupt world.
“He struggles with whether he’s on the right track, whether he’s working for an evil faction, and in the course of that he uncovers a mystery,” Dilapo said by phone from Los Angeles.
“Devils” tells the story from the oppressor’s point of view, not the other way around. “When you look at this time period in history, the Soviets or the Nazis, it’s usually about what it’s like for the oppressed, not what it’s like to be on the other side,” the screenwriter explained.
“Devils at Play,” which Dilapo completed after graduation from New York University in 2011, looks at “how moral justification works in our heads, how we lie to ourselves to believe in what we’re doing, that capacity for good and evil,” he explained, adding that he looked to books like Robert Conquest’s “The Great Terror” for information and ideas.”
Keep reading in the El Paso Times.
More info and RSVP for this free event by clicking here.
Getting the word out about this year’s edition of The Reading, featuring “Devils at Play” by James DiLapo. Click here to read more and RSVP!