Good People Bad Things
Winnipeg Fringe Festival 2013
Wednesday July 17 – Sunday July 28 8:30 pm
Award-winning playwright Daniel Thau-Eleff spoke with me recently about his one-person play Good People Bad Things. The reworked show will travel to the prestigious juried festival SummerWorks in Toronto. With a new ending and a new approach to the acting and directing it's “a whole new show!”
In Good People Bad Things, Thau-Eleff wrestles with questions that arise from three situations where something bad is done. In each case, from their own perspective those involved see themselves as “good people”, people who start with a sense of community, compassion and idealism.
In interwoven stories, the narrator talks about a potentially abusive relationship between two people, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and the Holocaust, as seen through the lens of Hannah Arendt's book about Eichmann.
In the tradition of one person shows, Thau-Eleff has created a persona that “skates the line” between autobiography and fiction. Some of the events in the play are based on the writer's own experiences, others are invented; the character develops and changes as he asks questions that challenge him and, the playwright hopes, the audience as well.
“It's useful to look at the concept of evil,”says Thau-Eleff. “Once we started looking at evil, we found it everywhere. Nothing was outside of our scope – banal evil, passionate evil...” The question that confronts each of us is, “In what way do I and we participate in something evil? The big question is 'How do we live?'”
Moving Target, Thau-Eleff's company, is personal-political. “We set the dots up, and leave it for the audience to connect.” People familiar with Thau-Eleff know that he is a pro-Palestinian activist. I asked him if he has a message to strong supporters of the State of Israel and he answered, “Come see it! I have great respect and admiration for those who know their political views are different from mine and come and experience the play. This should be a challenging theatre piece. The themes couldn't be much darker.”
As for whether the State of Israel is labelled as “good people doing bad things” in the play, Thau-Eleff emphasized that he is wrestling with questions, dealing with things he's not sure about, rather than offering specific answers. “In the Jewish community I grew up in, it was 'easy' to identify what the Nazis did as evil. 100% would agree.” Clarity about a relationship between two people is harder to achieve, and so is clarity about Israelis and Palestinians.
“This is exactly what the play is about ... I can't change anybody's mind. I'm asking questions, I'm bringing up things that the state and its army have done...Is this something that you think is wrong? If so, what can you or I do about it? So far I've found – not much. That's some of the scary dark pit we're looking into.”