Aunt Dan & Lemon
Justification of Putting the Audience Through a Difficult Evening
Written by Wallace Shawn
Wallace speaks about creating a theatre piece, called Aunt Dan and Lemon, where difficult questions are asked, contradictions are visited, and sometime the lie is the result in the story. This can leave the audience without a comfortable resolution in the end. Why does he tell his stories this way? Because a comfortable resolutions isn't the way our lives usually play out outside the theatre. He wants to challenge the thought process of the audience goer by sending them home with more questions than they arrived with, that they can only look inward to find the answer.
To me this is real art. It causes the viewer to really think. To re-evaluate their livelihood and lifestyle and maybe make a change for the better.
It's very important to always be reflecting on your perspective on a topic and try to self-examine as to where your perspective may have come from. Is your perspective something that you just acquired through your friends, community, or from news and social media? Or is this something that you've analyzed, researched and come to your own conclusion as a result.
Wallace was asking himself how he, as "...a superficial American, nurtured in the citadel of privilege, sheltered from the winds of history...", has the right to write about such things. At times I struggle with this exact thought when trying to create my own work. One quote that I thought was really helpful here was when he stated, "anyone has the right to think or speak about them [these subjects], because it's in fact impossible to say in advance whose contributions might be of value-- just as it's impossible to predict which of the 12 jurors in the jury will...point out some crucial bit of evidence that no one else had noticed." I think that as much as I admire what Wallace is saying here, I feel like it can be hard to approach particular topics from this perspective as not everyone is on the same page, culturally, politically, etc.
At the end of the essay he talks about the importance of changing our behavior and the attitudes behind our behavior. If that means putting the audience through a difficult evening, that sparks an internal self-examination, then I feel like it's a great thing he's doing.