Contradiction & Compromise
My Uncle & The Next Time
I don’t know how to begin this, because my uncle is sick. He’s fighting cancer and it’s a very big uphill battle. Yesterday I sent him one of my funny monologues in hopes of making him laugh through the chemo and radiation, and the pain. He’s been like a father to me in many ways. I’m scared that I don’t have much time left with him and the statistics are scarier than I can even write... You ask, “What does this have to do with gun control or moreover Gun Control Theatre Action?” That’s a valid question. It’s because of all my family members, my uncle’s views on gun control are the most starkly opposed to mine, and yet we still love one another.
When I sat down to write my gun control play I couldn’t help but think of my uncle. I wondered what he would think of my play as someone who has cared for me and supported my artistic career. Would he be offended? He has a huge arsenal including a walk-in safe filled with all kinds of guns. I think guns should be highly restricted. He shoots competitively and is nationally ranked. He hunts on a regular basis. I’ve eaten his game, because the parts that weren’t mounted on a wall after he shot them were taken to a butcher and served to the family. I’m not joking. Yet, I know he is not some scary member of a fringe white supremacist movement living in the woods who aims at bleeding blow up dolls for practice.
It was he who, without judgment, warmly welcomed my same-sex partner into his home. He, who then welcomed my now former husband. My uncle also embraced my Jewish father and walked my mother down the aisle when she got married in a Synagogue, because her father refused. This is the same man who accidentally chopped off half of his finger and used his finger-stump to make me laugh as a kid. My uncle went to bat for my mother, brother, and I when we needed him. And when he needed us, he lived with us. He’s family.
He just happens to be family who loves guns and is a huge Republican. Oy… It feels like a huge contradiction to me, and yet that is part of who we are as humans. It is our complexity, after all, that makes us individuals. How do I, a massively left-wing liberal artist, find a way to write something in passionate support of gun control that won’t feel like a juvenile slap in his face? These two seemingly opposed motivations guided my creative process. It was more constrained than my usual tightrope walk of impulse and craft.
Like many Americans in today’s economy, my employment responsibilities do not allow me the flexibility to go out and join a march or donate large sums of money to any cause. However, the best thing I can contribute for any political aim is to do what I do well,to write a play. Coming from a place of understanding the limitations most people have in their modern lives, I wanted my play to incite an action that seemed plausible for everyone to take, signing online petitions? Even with my restricted finances and over booked schedule I found the time to sign the influx of petitions going around. It was a small way to make a difference, amplified large if many people did the same.
Coming from a place of understanding the limitations most people have in their modern lives, I wanted my play to incite an action that seemed plausible for everyone to take
I needed to find the window of narrative between writing for the converted, which would totally alienate everyone else and yet still press authentically for a sense of personal responsibility for social change.
I found myself writing a few words at a time, slowly, carefully, and with intention. If I wanted my play to have the desired effect, then it needed to reach people who felt differently than I did. If even some people walked away and signed a petition, I would feel successful. I can’t say The Next Time, is my most perfect play—structurally or poetically. However, I do know that someone who owns guns would finish reading it. Even if someone reads it or watches it, then walks away without taking any action at all, I know that they too will be aware that they share in the weight of responsibility for what happens next time. For my uncle, I just hope he knows that as I fight and write for things he disagrees with, I do so with his life inspiring my fingers.