Playwright’s Note: after all the terrible things I do

25 Sep

Given the many sensitive topics in after all the terrible things I do, we decided a few months ago that a program note for the upcoming production would be a good idea to prepare people for what they’re about to see. I’d never done one before and usually prefer that my plays speak for themselves, but as I am myself disturbed by some of the things encountered in this story, I agreed.

Jonah Mowry in his YouTube video:

Jonah Mowry in his YouTube video:

We start tech today, and as we jump into the part of the rehearsal process that’s a bit headier, I thought I would share the note with you to keep the heart of the play in mind.

It was with bittersweet relief that I recently read two parenting articles on empathy by The Washington Post’s Amy Joyce this spring, three years after I began writing after all the terrible things I do. Encountering “Teaching Empathy” and “Are You Raising Nice Kids?” was sweet because it offered advice we need for raising children who are considerate of others and bitter because we actually need this advice.

We have prioritized being the best, most competitive, and happiest over being the humblest, most generous, and most understanding. We’ve done it to the degree that division, acrimony, and even violence have become the standard in our politics, our jobs, and our schoolyards.

The breadth of human experience is so diverse that understanding (let alone relating to) everyone’s unique, bizarre, or horrifying actions seems impossible. after all the terrible things I do started as a study of bullies, repugnant creatures who victimized others to establish control and dominance — people I felt I would never understand. It became an exercise in offering them the very thing they were unable to offer their victims: empathy. Could I (and eventually the audience) recognize bullies as fellows, step into their shoes, and understand how their strengths and fears led them to act in ways I could not? Or are their actions so terrible that empathy for them is beyond my grasp?

I would like to thank The Milwaukee Rep, my frequent collaborator May Adrales, and you for wrestling these ideas with me. Maybe the magic of theater can make those Washington Post articles less necessary as the skills for building community become lessons we live rather than lessons we must be reminded to teach. Even more, perhaps with stronger communities built on mutual understanding, bullying will seem less and less necessary or useful for us all.

A. Rey Pamatmat

Tickets for after all the terrible things I do are available at The Milwaukee Rep website or by calling (414) 224-9490. Tell all your friends in the Milwaukee area. If you’re in Chicago, take the hour or so to drive north. I guarantee it will be worth your while.

2 Responses to “Playwright’s Note: after all the terrible things I do

  1. Y York September 25, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    very nice. bye y


  1. Normal People Do terrible things | A. Rey Pamatmat - September 27, 2014

    […] As mentioned in my playwright’s note, when I started the play I was trying to understand bullies. Part of that understanding was wondering whether there were any deeds so horrible that there would be no second chance or redemption for their perpetrators. Everyone has done a terrible thing or two — what are the terrible things you’ve done? Do you regret it? Have you sought forgiveness or redemption? Did you get it? Tweet us @tellmyterrible, post to your favorite social media platform using #terriblethingsIdo, or click on and tell us about it. […]

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