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A Difficult Yet Necessary Evening

After reading the essay, “Justification of Putting the Audience Through a Difficult Evening” by Wallace Shawn, I am dying to read Aunt Dan and Lemon, the play it is referencing. The piece struck such a chord with me it’s hard to decide where I should begin. My obsession with this type of material has been with me my whole life. My first screenplay at NYU undergraduate was about an old Nazi in an old age home who befriends a young Jewish girl. He doesn’t realize at first she’s Jewish and sees so much of his daughter in her – the one that disowned him for his past. When he realizes she is Jewish, the Nazi pulls back from her. She thinks he was a victim during the Holocaust and doesn’t realize it was the reverse. I wanted to make a Nazi humanize a Jewish girl and realize the error of his past. Nazis after all were only men.

The topic was far from tapped out for me after that first short script and like Wallace Shawn, I hoped to make the audience see this inside themselves. I fear unless each person admits his or her own capabilities and keeps them in check, the horrors of history will always repeat themselves. This inspired my first feature length screenplay, Body Art, a serial killer romance. I wanted to put the audience in the shoes of Simon, isolated, alone and desperate to connect. We all have felt this way at some time. He finally falls in love with an incredible woman who also happens to be a serial killer – it is written to make the audience fall in love with her as well. But when Simon ends up killing for her to secure her freedom, I wanted the audience to feel ill. The story is built to make the audience root for the couple to be together, but murder is what it took to make the “happy ending” occur. I hoped to make the audience see inside themselves that killing is not something as far from us as we’d like to believe.

Both my screenplays were written when I was a teenager and into my early 20s, but the subject Wallace Shawn brings up is still important to me to this day. It’s what scares me most about humanity. And I find what scares me holds my attention. Human nature is not naturally good. We are built for survival – survival of the fittest. And part of this animal code makes humans afraid of those who are different from them. It makes sense in the wild so it should not be so unfathomable that it still exists in us today. This is the basis of everything horrible in the world. And I fear if we continue to pretend we are good and Nazis are pure evil — not simply flawed men — nothing will ever change. To keep this part of ourselves in check we much each face it, admit to its existence and fight to not succumb to our fears. I am so glad Wallace Shawn penned Aunt Dan and Lemon. This type of material needs to exist. If we look at the current presidential election, we haven’t really evolved at all.

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