News / Arts & Entertainment

    Conflicting 'Truths' About Tragedy Play Out on NY Stage

    "The Library" actors Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael O'Keefe, and Jennifer Westfeldt.
    "The Library" actors Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael O'Keefe, and Jennifer Westfeldt.
    Americans last week dealt with another seemingly unprovoked school attack - this one by a Pittsburgh student with two kitchen knives. New York theater-goers have a chance to explore the emotion surrounding these events.

    The Library, a new play at New York’s Public Theater, unfolds after a school shooting and peers into the shattered lives of the survivors, and the stories they tell.  The play is directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh, and written by Scott Z. Burns, who has worked with Soderbergh on three films, before they turned their attention to the stage. 

    Even before the play begins, Soderbergh and Burns make the audience uneasy.  When you enter the theater, a young woman in a hospital gown lies center stage on what could be a table or a bed or a slab in the morgue, said playwright Scott Z. Burns.

    "People start having to invent, you know, which is: Is she alive?  Is she not alive?  And so they’re already, before we’ve said anything, experiencing what the play is about, which is, you know, you start assembling facts and truths into stories that support your belief set and allow you to keep going," said Burns.

    Once the play starts, the audience discovers that the young woman onstage is a high school sophomore named Caitlin Gabriel and, although she’s survived a violent massacre, one of the other survivors has gone on TV and accused her of telling the gunman where several victims were hiding. 

    "And so Caitlin Gabriel wakes up out of her induced coma, basically, and she finds out right then and there that not only is her best friend that she was laying beside dead, but that she’s now being accused of being an accomplice to the murder of six children and one faculty member," said 17-year-old film actress Chlöe Grace Moretz who is making her stage debut as Caitlin.

    As the characters attempt to untangle the truth, each of them, kids and parents, try to control the narrative, often publicly, on television and in newspapers.

    Director Steven Soderbergh has seen that happen after real massacres.

    "We were fascinated by not only the idea of competing stories that have to do battle, but also another story or another myth that often comes out of events like these is that somehow everyone who goes through a tragedy is somehow ennobled by it, if they survive," he said. "And we were interested in sort of proposing a more realistic version of that story, which is: some people that go through tragedies like this are just damaged."

    It was the story of one survivor of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that prompted Scott Z. Burns to write the play.  He recalled that shortly after the massacre, in which two students killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher, misinformation about some of the victims and survivors began to proliferate.

    "So when stories get out - you know, especially now when we have a lot of unfiltered media that finds its way into our eyes and ears very quickly after these things - it’s hard to get it back," Burns explained.

    Actress Chlöe Grace Moretz puts it even more simply.

    "It’s like the whisper game you play at camp, you know, where one person whispers at the other end of the table and then they all whisper the same thing and then by the end of it, you find out it’s a completely different story," she said.

    The playwright and director chose not to focus on the gunman.  If there’s an antagonist in the story, it’s the mother of one of the victims, who deals with her loss by writing a book and consulting on a film, both of which sanctify her daughter and accuse Caitlin of leading the gunman to other victims.

    Throughout the play, as new information about the characters and events is revealed, director Steven Soderbergh said audience members begin to question their own beliefs.

    "The story sort of comes at you in waves, you know what I mean?  Like we experience the news cycle - sort of every scene there’s another shoe that drops and you go, “Oh boy.  Now I have to rethink what I’ve been watching,” he said.

    The posters for The Library say the play is “based on future events.”  And, unfortunately, as recent events have illustrated, that may prove all too true.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs