So, I was reading “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami (yes, I also roll my eyes when someone casually mentions they were reading Murakami) and there is this beautiful line: “Life is here, death is over there.” and it really hit me hard.
I thought about it a ton, about death and what we think about it. And then I knew I had to write a play about death. Specifically, about people facing certain death, because, frankly, I wanted to explore what the human mind would do when pushed to the extreme.
When I told a friend what I was doing, they warned me off of it, telling me that the premise I had chosen was taboo for too many people. At that point I knew I had to write it.
Why this play now?
Before the Fall takes place on 9/11, but it’s not really about 9/11, at least not directly. I wanted to look at the experiences of the people trapped in the two towers, and what they went through on a personal level. It’s important to bring their experiences to audiences, particularly in Washington DC, which also directly felt the effects of 9/11. And I think there is something cathartic about it, in a way, and we do our best to honor those stories that don’t get told as often.
There is so much divisiveness in our national conversation at the moment, and I think the play brings people above that, at least for an hour. It reminds us that when certain death strips us of all the superficiality of day to day, the nonsense falls away and we all basically want the same things.
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When the performance is over, what do you want the audience feeling or thinking about?
When I went to the London Fringe Festival, we were blown away by the response from our audiences. People waited for us after every show- they wanted to tell us how much what we had done had meant to them.
It is, at bottom, a play about life and death. At the end- if we do our job- we want the audience to be thinking about their lives: are they just going through the motions? Have they taken the easy but unfulfilling road? Are they really living their lives or are they living someone else’s, like their parents or their peers? When something extreme boils the mundane everyday of life away, what’s left? I know, that sounds so trite, but the writing is stark and, frankly, ugly at times. I want to jolt the audience into thinking.
When we first workshopped this show in New York City, we had a wonderful response, but we also had a few people who were angry that we had even told the story; they felt it wasn’t something fit for a play. That was when I knew I was on to something, because that’s exactly why we have theater. We need to drag these ugly things out into the light and explore them.
We are all really excited to share this story with the people in DC and we hope we can connect with them the way we have with other audiences. We’re all lucky to be here.
Patrick Hamilton is a playwright and actor in New York City. He grew up in Bethesda, MD but left to attend Fordham University, receiving a degree in biology. He was a high school chemistry and biology teacher for nine years before quitting to pursue a career in acting and writing. His first play, These Little Ones Perish, was nominated for Best Play in the NY Theater Winterfest in January of 2017. Before the Fall, is his second play and Won Best Cast and Best Drama at the 2018 London Fringe Festival.
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