The Reality/Theatricality of Enron

“We’re going to put it all together and sell it to you as the truth.” The opening line and company attitude of Enron makes everyone take a look at how truly north the company's moral compass pointed–with some satirical laughs along the way. Scandal, lies and corruption are a few of the plot twisting details of the play Enron, which opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse Aug. 15.

When Enron executives were caught in their intricate scandal, the world was shocked. Officials and figure heads had to step down, the company filed for bankruptcy (the largest company to have ever filed at the time) and pivotal leaders were sentenced to time in prison. Consequently, standards and laws for accountants and businesses as a whole became a necessary precaution. The impact was huge.

Enron was one of the world’s energy giants that was based right here in Omaha in its early days (formerly Northern Natural Gas then InterNorth). The company misrepresented financial reports, paid off government officials and encouraged employees to invest their retirement funds in unstable stocks. Thus leading to the collapse of the energy giant and devastating many employees’ financial situations. Connie Lee (character: Claudia Roe) shares, “...If you lived in this area – you were sure to know people who were financially devastated by it. It appears that Jeffrey Skilling is eligible for release in 2017. I’m sure there are many people who would love to contribute to that parole hearing!”

In the play, the stage is transformed into the fast-paced business world giving us an insider view of the scandal sparing no blame along the way. Fulfilling the deceitful roles, here are a few words from the cast about the show.
Standing L-R: Matthew Pyle as Jeffrey Skilling, Lamar Brown as Raptor, Connie Lee as Claudia Roe, Chris Shonka as Andy Fastow; Front row L-R: Jon Roberson as Raptor, Paul Schneider as Ken Lay, Steve Hartman as Raptor
Where did you draw your inspiration for the role?
Matthew (character: Jeffrey Skilling) –“Jeff is an uber-smart, overbearing, self-righteous, (and yet charismatic), take-no-prisoners ‘SOB.’” Matthew jokes, “He is, essentially, who we all (at least secretly) wish we could be in real life.”

Chris Shonka (character: Andy Fastow) –“Deep down, the man I’m playing was a reprehensible human being, at least during this time in his life. Andy Fastow’s crimes at Enron defied the fundamental principles of finance and just being a decent person, but he glued a web of money to his arms and tried to fly. Someone has to be on his side for this show to work, and it is this basic human love of rolling the dice that lets me see the world from his point of view.”  

What's your favorite part about this piece?
Connie (character: Claudia Roe) – “I love the way this play jumps from real and dramatic scenes to the absurd. Reality/Theatricality. It’s so much fun to work on a production that includes both extremes.”  

What do you find the most challenging about this production?
Paul Schneider (character: Ken Lay) –“Trying to capture the nuances of Ken Lay's voice – the tone, the pace, the hint of a southern accent – have been most interesting and challenging.”

 Connie Lee (character: Claudia Roe) --“My character, Claudia, is the only one of the 4 main characters who is fictional rather than a real person. But she is closely drawn from a real person in the Enron saga: Rebecca Mark. Claudia, like Rebecca, was one of the very few powerful women in the macho-male dominated corporate culture. She is flashy, aggressive and a hoot to play! We can draw from what we know of Rebecca for Claudia’s character, but we’re not boxed in by that. We’re free to create the Claudia that works best for this production.”

Chris (character: Andy Fastow) –“If you want a cohesive, engaging narrative, you can’t be pulled into a vortex of abstraction. What I love about this production is how everyone is invested, finding something entirely human in even the most absurd corners of the play. I don’t know that I’ve seen this many people be so freely inventive, yet disciplined in their commitment to the moment to moment action of the play. The challenge? Keeping up with them.”  

What do you remember from the scandal? How did it affect you?
Paul (character: Ken Lay) – “I am an active investor, and I am extremely saddened by the fact that absolutely nothing in the financial world has improved since the demise of Enron. In fact, all the predatory practices are very much worse than they were when Enron failed. Far worse collapses have already occurred and are likely to continue to occur.”

Chris (character: Andy Fastow) – “Skilling told me to sell my options a year before all hell broke loose. He didn’t even know me, just butt dialed and I answered. Is that a conflict of interest for me? Probably. The Enron scandal didn’t affect me personally but the subsequent ones have obviously impacted everyone’s lives (Why, why did I buy my house in 2007?). Has meaningful regulation been passed by our representatives in government? Will it ever?”

 Enron runs Aug. 15-Sept. 14, Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m.

To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800, or visit the Box Office located in the southeast corner of the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass St. or click here.

Story by Kelsey Nutt

No comments: