The play I’m working for my Bloodworks reading is called We In Silence Hear A Whisper. It’s based off an idea I had in 2005 when I was in grad school thinking, “How would you write a play about the genocide in Darfur and make it not suck?” Now, when I tell people I’m writing a play about Darfur, they tend to look at me like I just farted in a puppy’s face. I take it they think I’ve engaged in a foolish-to-inappropriate endeavor.
I know I’ve engaged in a foolish, perhaps inappropriate endeavor. Why else would I sit on an idea for 4 years? [Not always but often] I have a tremendously hard time getting myself to write. My body will literally fight itself. My muscles twist and tighten. My chest spasms. Paroxysms of silence shudder my limbs. I can feel words travel my throat that are never heard [‘cause I don’t speak them] and are never read [‘cause I don’t write them], until my throat grows cramped and soar like the calves of a psychotic runner, the kind who enjoy taking off their socks to see how bad their feet have bleed.
I think I should do something else. That’s the sane response, right? I tell myself, “You should _____" or "Really, what you ought to do is ______" or "Wouldn’t doing ______ be a lot more productive and helpful for ________?” Problem is, I can never fill in the blanks. All my thoughtful wishes for a different life are a virgin madlib. What else can I do? What else will anyone let me do? What else am I any good at? And so here I am, having to write a play for Bloodwork by decree of Baron Gillis and Vicomte Tolan, and I thought, “Let’s do that I idea you are super terrified to do! If you’re going to do this shit, do it stupid!”
Writing a play that touches on genocide – a current genocide – does offer a lot of ways to suck. I certainly don’t enjoy self-flagellating, liberal theater that wants to punish you for showing up. And I don’t enjoy academic lectures delivered by actors; if I had a passion for academia, I would’ve gone to a real grad school so I could currently be sitting in some small city or college town playing politics for a tenure track. And I’m not really sure if I’m qualified to speak for experiences that are the foreignest of foreign to me. And I don’t want to talk just about western, white people as much as I personally like them.
Horror needs to be named. Abject cruelty needs to be exposed. Evil needs the stage. Otherwise, the crimes we humans inflict on each other go unsolved. Worse, they get forgotten. One of the many lessons I’ve taken from the Bush years is that while knowledge of awful things is awful, ignorance of them is far worse. Ignorance is Miracle Grow™ for awful things. Ignorance is Cialis for the four-hour fuckpages of awful things. Yet if we’re going to open our eyes to evil, perhaps shake evil’s hand, perhaps chat evil a few questions at a dinner party, we have to experience the witnessing of that evil as a compelling event - as something aesthetic, worth seeing like any other object competing in the markplace of stimulation. The acceptable aesthetics of evil: that’s the fucking question. That’s the challenge that’s sat inside me for 4 years.
So here I am.
My reading of We In Silence Hear A Whisper is on June 3rd at 7pm. I’m excited to discover that night how badly I’ve failed, and I offer you the schadenfruede to discover along with me. I’m hopeful that I won’t, but a little suspicious that I will. Either way, we’re alive and ready to find out.
NB: If you are fortunate enough to have extra money or time, these people do good work - Doctors Without Borders and The International Rescue Committee. Please help them out, if you can
Jon's Bloodworks reading is next Wednesday (6/3) at 7 PM @SEAPORT! - 210 Front Street (@SEAPORT! is located at 210 Front Street, in the South Street Seaport--A/C to Broadway/Nassau, 2/3/4/5/J/M/Z to Fulton Street. Walk down Fulton Street to the Seaport, turn left before The Gap and the BODIES exhibit-- @SEAPORT! is half a block down on the left.)
Admission is free.