Playwright Will Scheffer. Credit: Walter McBride

“Never forget.”

That Holocaust mantra has been drilled into my head since Hebrew school. Writer/producer Will Sheffer (best-known for his HBO series Big Love) recently wrote and directed his first play, The Green Room, which tackles the notion of remembering and forgetting. The play is billed as “an alchemical comedy” that deals with a Holocaust survivor’s psychological legacy.

Part of the 59E59 Summer Shorts 5 series, The Green Room is described as, “Mommy’s got Aphasia, Papi’s locked himself in the bedroom, Sister Franny won’t say why. And so Ben must return to Queens with his Marine Biologist husband Sam, to decipher The Green Book and confront the destructive power of familial love.”

Sounds neurotically good.

In a recent  interview Scheffer tells The New York Times that the act of forgetting is the default setting of our DNA. That it is the pre-programmed response because remembering entails too much unbearable suffering.  

Scheffer’s father was a Holocaust survivor, so he’s obviously writing from personal experience. He says his father didn’t talk about his wartime experiences, which he thinks was a big mistake. His inability to talk about his Holocaust past, which Scheffer attributes to survivor’s guilt, actually made matters worse. Not just for him but for his kids (Scheffer has a sister), the long-suffering, oft-forgotten children of survivors.

In the Times interview, Scheffer explains: “When one does not reckon with personal tragedy, when one does not remember, one ends up inevitably destroying one’s self and others.”

Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. But the over-examined life is no life at all. Somewhere in the middle lies the perfect balm. We need to deal with the tragedy in our lives so we can move on and actually have a life.

Scheffer’s play ends on September 3. Probably won’t get a chance to see it before it closes, so hopefully it’ll have a second run. If anyone reading this has seen The Green Room, would love to know what you thought.

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