Opera Australia has begun work in Melbourne on the life of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. If the proposed opera goes to full production, it will be the second time Assange's life has inspired an artistic production in his native Australia.
The Guardian reports Lyndon Terracini, the artistic director who initiated the project, told Australia Broadcasting Company(ABC):
"[Julian Assange] is an incredible character and it is an exciting idea...What they came up with is really terrific. What's great is that it speaks to a younger audience."Huffington Post says "the secret Assange project" should help the struggling Opera Australia draw younger, larger crowds.
A composer, Jonathan Dreyfus, has already been commissioned to write the music. Eddie Perfect, who is playing Assange, told ABC News:
"It's got everything that a dramatic musical work needs. It's got heroes and villains. In fact, it's got a hero and villain combined in one."
Eddie Perfect, who has played other controversial characters in the past, commented about his new role:
"Assange is a greater challenge because his personality is filtered through the media and we rarely see the 'human' side. He's also more subdued..."Julian Assange and the Australian theater: WikiLeaks for good or evil?
This is not the first time the personality of Julian Assange has inspired artistic stage expressions in his native Australia. The award winning Australian playwright Ron Elisha, staged a comic polemic on Julian Assange's career called Stainless Steel Rat. The play, according to The Guardian, was,
"...a theatrical device to explore the forces marshaled for and against Assange in his Pyrrhic assault on the global establishment. Outrageously funny in parts, it reflects on the human frailties that have cost Assange so much and examines whether WikiLeaks and its succession of whistleblowing scoops was a force for good or evil."
Ron Elisha explains the motivation for writing a play on Assange:
"I wrote it like that because when I finished the play [in February] there was very little in print about Julian Assange...Everything about him was splattered across cyberspace but it was hard to know what was true and what wasn't."
The play, which does comic portrayals of world leaders (such as Obama who "wants Assange locked up," and Dmitry Medvedev who "who wants to give Assange the Nobel peace prize for exposing America's secrets") begins with a sex scene: a man on a darkened stage thrusting vigorously to the impassioned cry of a woman who seems, ironically, to be enjoying the "assault." Two actors follow, arguing:
Actor 1:"Did he really do this?...This guy's in IT."
Actor 2: They invented porn...What if the cables were a diversion?"Stainless Steel Rat runs for two and a half hours with plenty of detail on Assange's life, including the battle for custody of his son, but the play ends inconclusively on the central question of whether WikiLeaks should be seen as a force for good or evil.
Julian Assange's "Unauthorized Autobiography"
Assange sold publishing rights to his autobiography for over a million pounds. He explained to the press the decision was forced on him by financial difficulties especially in maintaining his WikiLeaks site. He said in an interview with Sunday Times:
"I don't want to write this book, but I have to. I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat".
The draft of his autobiography ghostwritten by Andrew O'Hagan, was published without Assange's consent in September 2011 and titled: Julian Assange – the Unauthorized Autobiography.
Julian Assange, editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, has spoken out over the hypocrisy of the US government as it attempts to quiet whistleblowers.
A life of "ethical rebellion"
What sticks out as the dominant theme in Assange's life is his obsession with rebellion against authority.
He began at the tender age of 16, a computer hacker and internet activist whose activism was centered around the ideal freedom of press, and promotion of open governments. He began hacking, at 16, under the name "Mendax" and two other hackers joined him. They formed a group called International Subversives whose activities were governed by stated ethical hacking rules:
"Don't damage computer systems you break into (including crashing them); don't change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share information."
The Australian police soon became aware of their activities, which included hacking into the USAF 7th Command Group in Pentagon. The police arrested him in 1991 and charged him with 31 counts of hacking and "related crimes." He was finally released on bond for good conduct, after being fined Australian $2,100. The judge had considered evidence of his "disrupted childhood" and the information that he had helped the Victoria Police Child Exploitation unit in 1993 by providing technical assistance in prosecuting certain persons. The judge said:
"...there is just no evidence that there was anything other than sort of intelligent inquisitiveness and the pleasure of being able to - what's the expression — surf through these various computers"
Assange was at the University of Melbourne between 2003 and 2006, studying physics, mathematics, philosophy and neuroscience! He passed most of his courses with a minimum "pass" grade and finally dropped out of school to found WikiLeaks in 2006.
Assange is the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website dedicated to international news leaks. WikiLeaks has published leaked news materials about extrajudicial killings in countries such as Kenya, toxic waste dumping in Cote d'Ivoire, Guantanamo Bay and the Church of Scientology. The website published leaked classified documents on American involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Julian Assange received several awards for his work. For his publications on extrajudicial killings in Kenya, he received the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award and Readers' Choice for Time Magazine's 2010 Person of the Year.
WikiLeaks began publishing leaked U.S. diplomatic cables on November 2010, but personal trouble began for Assange over a case of sexual assault under investigation. In February 2011, he appealed a decision by English courts to extradite him to Sweden for questioning on the case. The Guardian reports that on 2 November, 2011, the High Court upheld the extradition rejecting all grounds for the appeal.
Assange now has less than two weeks to appeal to the Supreme Court in Britain. His lawyer Geoffrey Robinson said he has no confidence in the Swedish judiciary, and that Assange will not receive a fair trial in Sweden. He said the allegations against Assange are politically motivated and called on the Australian Government to intervene in his case. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
“I think Canberra may have to do something about it...It’s got a duty to help Australians in peril in foreign courts.”