“The Silence of Malachi Ritscher,” by Kevin Kilroy—
There’s nothing like a shower to cool you down. Cool fool, nothing. When I watch my mind, it doesn’t move. Joe’s a fucking idiot. I go to work, on-time, I do my shit. Who does he think he is? Why do I care, really, though? My heart isn’t in it. I don’t have passion for that job. [pause]
Before Malachi self-immolated, writes Kilroy in a recent email conversation about his stage drama, I was working on a political play—something that had a purpose beyond attention to mind, imagination, and intelligent expression, which I felt I was spending too much time on. Utopic but with less outrage, more human emotion, trying to accept today's a-political climate and be in it without desiring a vision of how it should be.
All other discussion about Malachi were very surface level—basically: sane? or insane?—and I understand why that was the case as self-immolation is a very difficult action to contemplate. But I felt somebody needed to spend more time doing just that, contemplating this action, and so I did.
What is my point? My argument? What do I desire? Taxes- they connect me, everybody, to the blood we shed. More, go deeper. The two-party system will never work. Alright, yea – but these arguments have no effect. Everybody says them. What can I say that will touch people more than words? What can I do that’s deeper – people need to feel political. They need to get off their asses. Yelling at them, that’s not going to work – I need to show them… [long/snappy pause realizing he could self-immolate—that scary thought has returned to his head.] Those fuckers at my work, they think I’m a joke. Tonight, I’d work on the website more. Public Parking Party dot Org – people will get into it. I’ll get hits. [sighs again] [singing] “They say I’m crazy. OH, Oh-ohOH! But I don’t believe I can be that strong.”
Malachi self-immolated and thereby became a microcosm of fears and questions and nightmares and love and living. Is this an act of anti-patriotism? Yes and no. No, in that it is not anti-anything. But yes, because it contradicts the motions and ideologies of a patriotic gesture. This play is human, it's about relationships, it’s about fears and questions and nightmares and love and living in the world that is present and taking the time out of lives to connect with each other and discuss what is happening.
Also, politics—living politically on a daily basis, working towards a political consciousness— Malachi's reasoning for doing this: there are so few who could possibly feel any empathy for his situation, his internal crisis, and for the decision he made. We, as a society, are so far away from what his action represents, so I wrote a play that creates more possibilities for more people to gain sympathy for his crisis and, if nothing more, I am walking away from this play wiser about to what degree politics should be played out upon my body and the bodies of those I love. And, I hope, with a greater capacity for empathy.
What I am most proud of, and at the same time doubtful of, is the fact that this play does not say anything. I think it shows a good deal of the conflicts and issues and errors in living, but in the end there is no message which I have judged to be more worthy than any other possible message. However, staying connected to people, to loved ones, seems key to this world created in the play. Another message—avoid utopic actions. Another message—politics touches even the most intimate and private and special areas/moments of our lives.
The Silence of Malachi Ritscher
Opens at Theatre Building Chicago
Mar. 23 - Apr. 21*