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Theater: The Pillowman Forum

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Welcome to an online discussion of the theater production of The Pillowman at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, PA. Winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play and 2 Tony Awards, The Pillowman is the thrilling story of a writer who is being questioned on a series of murders echoing his unpublished stories. Is he involved? Has he been set up? Reminiscent of both the Brothers Grimm’s tales and the Coen Brothers’ movies, this play should provoke some interesting discussions. Please join in!

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

Name: Anne K. Ho
Date: 2006-10-04 21:17:33
Link to this Comment: 20599

As the Wilma Theaters Education Director, I would like to welcome everyone to what I hope will be a lively exchange of responses to a play that is known for provoking a myriad of strong reactions, often simultaneously and within the same person.

Perhaps it shouldnt surprise us that a play about stories and the responsibility of the storyteller to society, could invoke such complex reactions. Just last week, a German opera house canceled its production of Mozarts Idomeneo because of fears that a scene depicting the severed head of Muhammad would set off another rash of violent riots by Muslims, a decision that has sparked its own wave of protests in response to it.

In a 1956 interview in Paris Review, William Faulkner stated that The writers only responsibility is to his art. This argument is echoed by the writer, Katurian, in The Pillowman. But what about stories with no redemptive social value, stories like Katurians that inspire copycat crimes of violence inflicted upon children? Are there certain stories that should never be told? Does a good story in and of itself, regardless of the crimes it might inspire, really have the power to be redemptive?

Pillowman Performance
Name: Sarah Wats
Date: 2006-10-09 18:54:06
Link to this Comment: 20649

One of the most exciting evenings I've ever spent in the theater. Thanks Wilma. I'll spread the good word.

Thinking-person's theater
Name: Vicki Solo
Date: 2006-10-13 16:18:46
Link to this Comment: 20675

The Pillowman has everything you want from a theater experience -- emotions that grab you, images that stay with you, ideas to ponder. It's worth seeing twice.

Not for everyone
Name: J. Gould
Date: 2006-10-15 10:50:01
Link to this Comment: 20680

I saw "Pillowman" yesterday. After hearing about the New York production, I am glad I got a chance to see it here in Philly, but am still making up my mind about it.

Meanwhile, I can say that the gentleman seated on my right fell asleep during the performance (in row B!). The lady to my left was turned off by the strong language and the aimless plot.

Name: yu-ren
Date: 2006-10-15 20:35:28
Link to this Comment: 20684

Recent reports indicate that a major outcome of the "war on terror" has been an increase in participation in "terrorist" organizations. I've been wondering about the kinds of trauma that the experience of war inflicts upon adults and youth of countries under direct attack. The Pillowman has me wondering about the ways we are also subjecting military personnel to war. At the highest level of government, our leaders are arguing vigorously over our right to torture. What is the relationship of the perpetrator of such acts to trauma (in their own personal history, in their present lives, and in their futures)? What effects does engaging in acts of torture have on them and their relationships with others?

Very Disturbing Subject
Name: shelley
Date: 2006-10-15 21:19:30
Link to this Comment: 20686

It's my opinion that one goes to the theatre to be entertained...transposed to another world where events happen that one can or cannot relate to - but are, none the less provocative and hopefully enjoyable.

Today I saw the Pillowman and can honestly say, that I was repulsed by the subject matter. The acting and the staging were excellent... but the play itself was most disturbing and troubling. Brillantly written yes, but the audience was subjected to a brutality that was beyond the pail.

I kept thinking this was going to get better - but it only got worse. What would cause anyone to call this a black "comedy" is beyond me. What could the author have possibly suffered in his own life to have written such a brutal tale? This is a black "Tragedy" - and my hat is off to anyone who could sit through the entire production.

This play is certainly not for the faint of heart.

The Pillowman rewards second viewing
Name: Michael
Date: 2006-10-16 08:11:13
Link to this Comment: 20688

When I saw The Pillowman in New York, I didn't love it. I suspected the play was trying too hard to be dark and clever and that the clever "twists" on the stories were gratuitously twisted. Every character you might hope to find appealing is also disturbing. Ever plot-development that hints at the promise of hope shatters you. Seeing it for a second time, however, this time at the Wilma, rewards me with new appreciation for the play. I am not sure how much this has to do with the story-line being more clearly told in this production or with my greater familiarity with the story. This time, I was not continually bracing myself against the next disaster. If I withheld laughter the first time, this version makes me laugh with abandon. It's not that I like all of the stories within the play or find them redeemingI find some disturbing, even a bit cheapbut the play as a whole is so carefully crafted that it makes a great story.

So, thanks, Martin McDonagh, for folding your calculations about the fate of your fellow man into a beautiful paper aeroplane. And thanks Jiri Zizka for launching this plane with such accuracy from the tower. But if Katurian represents the audience and Tupolski represents the playwright, then it seems unlikely we will even notice the airplane or get off the track before the train comes barreling down atop of us. Like Tupolski's abbreviated ten second warning, The Pillowman "sends a signal" about the dangerous path we are on: that we can't even afford to wait for a wake-up call.

My Thoughts on THE PILLOWMAN
Name: jl
Date: 2006-10-16 20:05:21
Link to this Comment: 20691

This production of THE PILLOWMAN has everything going for it! It's an incredible tale that caused me to examine my preconceived ideas about acceptable speech and unacceptable speech. The actors' portrayal of the characters is totally believable even in the surreal almost absurd world they occupy.

The director has done an excellant job of using all the tools available to tell the "story" of THE PILLOWMAN. The stylizing of the vignettes is perfect. The set is appropriatly stark and the lighting is right on. The wardrobe is well chosen and the actors make full use of it as an extension of their internal as well as external characters.

THE PILLOWMAN forced me to examine whether I support total freedom of speech or not. I can't help but think of the censorship of student essays that include ficticious accounts of school violence in the aftermath of Columbine, et al. Are the writings of these students mere fantasy or the overt warnings of events to come? What are the responsibilities of society with regard to these writings? If not censured by society (the school authorities in this case) and then acted out by the writers, what responsibility is borne by the authority? If, when inspired by the writing, someone else recreates the action, what responsibility lies with the writer?

Most people accept the restriction on free speech that prohibits the yelling of "FIRE" in a crowded movie theater. But, if I tell someone to go into the theater and yell it, what is my responsibility?

When a radical individual expresses such hateful speech that it inspires others to enact hate crimes, are we allowed, no, obligated to restrict that speech? If we are, does that somehow absolve the enactor of free will and thus his or her responsibility?

THE PILLOWMAN raises these questions in my mind and I wrestle with the answers.

Well done.

Pillowman, censorship and entertainment value
Name: Walter Bil
Date: 2006-10-18 09:32:03
Link to this Comment: 20700

As the dramaturg for the Wilma, it's very gratifying to see the comments in this space. I particularly enjoy "jl's" comments, since they reflect my mixed response to the questions raised by the play. What are the limits of censorship? Are there ideas that shouldn't be expressed, or publicized? If the answer to either or both is "no," what are the consequences? If the answer is "yes," the age-old question arises: who gets to pick the watchdogs, and who watches the watchdogs?

The Wilma's production of Pillowman is provoking an extremely wide ranges of responses, many extraordinarily passionate. This is very similar to the experience of other theaters. There also seems to be some correlation to age. The most violent antipathy seems to be coming from some of our older patrons, often with longing for some of the Wilma's most lyrical work from the past. Younger audiences are some of the play's most ardent fans. Does that make one age more "moral" than the other?

Audience Reaction Surprising
Name: Sharon M B
Date: 2006-10-20 08:58:44
Link to this Comment: 20706

I was fortunate enough to see The Pillowman this past Sunday evening, it was everything I expected and much more. As someone who has an interest and background in theater, I was curious to see how McDonagh's play compared to the plays of others ( Fornes, Churchill, Parks in particular) who also use violence as a subtext. However, what shocked me more than the play itself, was the continual laughter from the audience. Of course there were humorous moments, but it seemed to me that there was far more laughter than I would expect from a dark drama such as The Pillowman. Are people afraid of true emotion, have we become so immune to being affected by violence/horror, or.... I would love to read others reactions to this. Having seen several of Maria Irene Fornes' and Suzan-Lori Parks' plays, I am most anxious to explore the subject of audience reaction to violence and would welcome comments and suggestion.

Sharon B

Ages and Audience Reaction
Name: Linda East
Date: 2006-10-21 10:14:37
Link to this Comment: 20710

In reference to Walter's comment #20700, I think the reason why the age of audience may matter is that younger people feel as if they're seeing is somehow something more truthful, yet transgressive, when violence and crude language are shown in the theater.

Yes, the violence and language are all around us now - has that made us better people, more moral? I think not. It can make us weary. Violence on TV has been shown to generate violence in children. What have we achieved?

Where older audiences may differ is not so much a matter of morality, but of experience. That is (and I put myself in this latter group), not only have we seen and read much more theater, film, photographs and other cultural expression, but we have seen more life. Some of us may have seen or experienced more violence than we ever hoped to firsthand; others of us more at secondhand, but it all adds up. We have lived through more wars, more genocides, more atrocities that stagger the imagination, by Americans and others.

Because of this, we may not feel it is a higher "truth" to see such violence depicted on stage, not transgressive, but rather, too much of what we already feel burdened by. If I'm tired of hearing curses on every street corner, do I want to seek out that language in a theater production?

That said, "The Pillowman" was an amazing production, with a real shift in the second act. I'm not sure that all the extreme violence to achieve the complexity of the play, however. I'm really not sure. Friends and I are still talking about it. The stories we tell ourselves are the stories that help us live, sometimes. We will never stop telling stories.

Pillow questions
Name: cannon mic
Date: 2006-10-22 12:44:07
Link to this Comment: 20719

Yes, the disparity between the different responses to the play is intriguing. I found it particularly difficult to appreciate the innate humor in the scene between the brothers. Quite frankly, it just seemed cruel. A teary "brain-damaged" brother being pushed around by his smarter brother got a little difficult to watch. Perhaps, if the "brain-damaged" brother had been more of a match for the writer and less "victimized," I might've been able to laugh. Also, why did the brother kill the children? I don't think I buy, "because you told me to." Any thoughts?

In any case, it was an astonishing night in the theater. Thanks Wilma.

re: Pillow questions
Date: 2006-10-22 19:13:28
Link to this Comment: 20721

Once again, I'm very happy to see the range of comments and the amount of thought people are putting into their posts. This past Thursday night we had a talkback with the audience, attended by 70-some of the nearly sold-out house that attended the performance. During the discussion, one gentleman (not a young man, if I may say so) put forward the opinion that he was happy to attend something in the theater that "wasn't" as oriented to laughs as most of what he sees in the theater. (This was an audience that had laughed as much as usual, by the way.) So the question remains open, but the generation gap may not be as cut and dried as I made it seem in my last post.

As to the question "why did Michal kill the kids?" Of course Katurian didn't tell him to do it. But from the evidence of the play, the best simple answer is that, as he says, he wanted to see if the stories were true. This is something that I admire greatly about the play: that Martin McDonagh, while arguing for the right of a writer to tell whatever stories he wishes, he also leaves open the question of responsibility for audiences who can't distinguish fiction from prescription.


Name: Tom Ryan
Date: 2006-10-23 12:08:49
Link to this Comment: 20724

I can't believe these comments! I came to this site to see what people could possibly say about this play.

This is one of the WORST PLAYS I have seen in a long,long time. All the here-contained blather about "terrorism" and the "responsibility of the artist." Just give us, please, a play that isn't totally inane...this was uninspired and derivative posturing, cardboard characters (taken, by everything I saw) from juvenile and unperceptive attachment to TV's "Law and Order" (Monty Ponthon could have done this better). Leaden language...reaching nowhere, going nowhere, and "dripping with meaning" in the worst possible sense (or rather nonsense).

It is amazing to me that your artistic management couldn't find something better than this? Art? You have go to be kidding. Well, if the music "establishment" can manufacture the Back Street Boys, I guess the theater establishment can attempt to establish a "playright" by comparing him to Shakespeare or God knows what else. Maybe it was better in Irish.

Dick Wolf, the creator of Law & Order said recently that "if they're going to imitate us, then they at least should be better than we are, for starters." Kafka? Becket? You have to be kidding. Are theater audiences so debased and tone-deaf that they can't see this trash for what it is? Good luck, Wilma volk. I won't be back for a long time. And in the future, please keep your shills our of the newspapers. THEATERSPEAK rubbish by people who apparently enjoy giving each other kudos and awards. The windswept Mongolians have better theater than this. Of course the acting (blah, blah blah) was fine.

Name: Glenn
Date: 2006-10-23 13:38:16
Link to this Comment: 20725

Well, I can't just let this last email go without a counterpoint. One shouldn't confuse a troubling story with a meaningful point, and in my estimation, beyond the quality of the production, the questions and issues that the play raises are timely and not often fodder for playwrights (or TV show creators). For me, this was a great--even eerily optimistic--evening of theater, because it re-enforced that we are connected to each other in complex and visceral ways, and that this connection has innate responsibilities and consequences. Was Katurian's acceptance of his role in the murders simply a plot to save his stories, or did he really believe he was equally to blame? And the final scene, while a "happy ending" in a way, all depends on who next opens the box containing his stories. Anyway, it did what theater can do best--incite anger and discomfort, but make me think about big things, if only for a little while. I'll happily take the last guy's seat for upcoming productions if they match the intelligence and passion of this one.

response to ryan post
Name: Sharon
Date: 2006-10-23 18:04:13
Link to this Comment: 20727

Mr. Ryan, it is pathetic that you cannot see what lies underneath the surface of the Pillowman. If you want merely to be entertained, you should stay home and watch Law and Order.Theater is meant to challenge, provoke, and promote discussion. Simply because Martin McDonough does not wrap things up with neat bows, give us smiling choruses, or cater to the status quo, well perhaps you are better going to a nice safe, predictable production of something you can understand. The mere fact that he has provoked you tells me that he is doing his job, too bad you can not see that.

Author's responsibility
Name: Barry
Date: 2006-10-23 18:09:15
Link to this Comment: 20728

An author-related question: we know that Timothy McVeigh used William Pierce's "The Turner Diaries" as a blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing. We also know that William Pierce is an avowed white supremacist whose aim is precisely the sort of terrorism depicted in the book. Should he be held legally liable if his beliefs funnel into his work which funnels into mass murder? Can such work be censored before publication, in the interests of national security? Imagine an al Qaeda sympathetic author writing abour blowing up Disneyworld - can we censor that?

Stephen King, in one of his short stories, received very detaiiled information on how to hotwire road construction vehicles, but left out a couple of steps when he wrote the story because he didn't want to be the one responsible for putting the information out there, because it could be done.

Tragic what passes for good
Name: Chris
Date: 2006-10-26 09:31:06
Link to this Comment: 20767

This play is cheap and low class. It had a cheap plot and used cheap techniques and architecture. Anybody can turn up the music too loud and come up with things to disgust - what genius is that? A quality work can deal in the dark side - like Sophies choice where the event is awful but there is a wonderful subtlety in the journey and profundity of the event. Here in this shock porn drama, the author immediately gets in your face and seeks to disgust without regard to intrigue. Our ability as an audience to suspend disbelief is robbed by the mix of the absurd and the realistic and we are left wondering whether to buy in or buy out. However, as the cheap violence and common themes done better by masters of old are recycled in a motif that is neither interesting nor nuance we pretty quickly buyout and simply seek to endure. Those directors and others responsible for promoting this work ought to be ashamed, there is good art that can provoke and then there is piss-Christ which is neither interesting nor serious to the dialogue of human understanding and flourishing - this pillowman falls into the latter. I can only hope that pillowman of bad artists smothers the author's career and reveals the charlatan within.

Audience Response
Name: greg shami
Date: 2006-10-26 15:01:32
Link to this Comment: 20773

I find it hard to understand how people could simply dismiss this play. While it certainly might repulse, the vitiolic response (particularly of the last poster) reveals more, I think, about the person posting than the play itself. I saw the production last night (Wednesday) and I was appalled and shocked and taken on one of the most incredible journies I've ever been on. The director's strong choice visually and the actors' bold choices left me in awe.

I, like a previous posting, have to agree with the scene between the 2 brothers. Really difficult to watch - particularly the epic suffication. Michael's mental dificiencies were the result of "torture," not simply "mentally retardation," right? I didn't really get that. Much less that he was capable of killing the children. Very little love from Katurien didn't help matters. Sorry, if I digress, just curious if I'm off base in my observation. However, the 2 actors were clearly the only ones fully committed to the world of the play. Tough stuff.


Audience Response
Name: greg shami
Date: 2006-10-26 15:02:23
Link to this Comment: 20774

I find it hard to understand how people could simply dismiss this play. While it certainly might repulse, the vitiolic response (particularly of the last poster) reveals more, I think, about the person posting than the play itself. I saw the production last night (Wednesday) and I was appalled and shocked and taken on one of the most incredible journies I've ever been on. The director's strong choice visually and the actors' bold choices left me in awe.

I, like a previous posting, have to agree with the scene between the 2 brothers. Really difficult to watch - particularly the epic suffication. Michael's mental dificiencies were the result of "torture," not simply "mental retardation," right? I didn't really get that. Much less that he was capable of killing the children. Very little love from Katurien didn't help matters. Sorry, if I digress, just curious if I'm off base in my observation. However, the 2 actors were clearly the only ones fully committed to the world of the play. Tough stuff.


What a horrible night!
Date: 2006-10-27 14:05:54
Link to this Comment: 20781

It was all I could do to sit through the first act of this play - and in fact the people behind me escaped early on despite the fact that they had to disturb many people in so doing. How I wish I'd have left! (Now I know why those rows are so long!) What a waste of my time!

The screaming, confrontational dialogue was disturbing. The attempt to inject humor into the killing of children, the imprisonment of a child for seven years, the threat of torture and so was repulsive. And the snickers from the audience were shocking. Have we really stooped to become THAT cynical? We have truly lost our way. Of course cruelty begets cruelty - that is a known fact. This was presented as some marvelous new finding!

We left absolutely LIVID with the Wilma. Even the mile and a half walk home barely cooled us down. Truly, we'll rethink our subscription at this venue.

Audience Response - Greg
Name: Barry
Date: 2006-10-27 16:40:49
Link to this Comment: 20783


Thanks for the comments. I'm the Literary Fellow for the Wilma, and the way I understood Peter's performance (when Michal is visited by the Pillowman) is that, even as a child, he was somewhat slow. Whether or not this was caused by something prenatal that the parents did is open to interpretation, but certainly plausible.

A story about a story about ... the significance o
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-10-28 13:43:44
Link to this Comment: 20787

To the right .... a vase or ... two people looking at each other or ... ? Pillowman ... "repulsive," "cheap and low class" or .... "a great - even optimistic evening of theater," "an astonishing night in the theater" or ... "an incredible tale, one that caused me to examine my preconceived ideas about acceptable speech and unacceptable speech," "so carefully crafted that it makes a great story" or .... ?

Once upon a time, in a place not very far from here, a child realized that not only everything she had heard but everything she had seen and thought was a story. Vases could equally be two people looking at each other, "cheap and low class" could also be "carefully crafted". They were all stories told about the same things by different people, and even, sometimes, by the same person at different times. And so the child decided to become a story teller, and read and studied a lot to figure out what makes a good story, and practiced hard to get better and better at story telling. Good stories, she discovered, needed to be about things people cared about and reacted to. They needed to trigger emotions, to get people involved in them, and to trigger laughter, so that people didn't take them TOO seriously (after all, they were just stories). Most of all, they needed to show people some new ways of thinking that might not otherwise have occurred to them.

As she got older, the child thought to herself that the really interesting thing to try and tell a story about would be .... story telling. About how things could look differently to different people, and differently to the same person at different times, and about what that meant, for herself, for other people, and for how people related to one another and the things they were telling stories about.

And so she did. She wrote "Pillowman" about a story teller and the possibilities and problems of being a story teller. And it was probably a little bit about herself and her own life, and probably a little bit about the lives of other people she'd seen and heard from or read about. And probably partly made up from nowhere at all. It didn't matter, of course, because it was a story.

But by that time, the little girl had realized that it actually DID matter, in a different and more important sense. She'd come to understand that if everything is a story, then stories MUST matter, that one's own stories can't help but influence other peoples' stories, both their stories about other things and their stories about themselves. And so she put that into the story too, because she wanted to help other people recognize that they too were story tellers, that they too could see either vases or people looking at one another or .... Was the story teller's brother born retarded? or was his behavior when he got older because he was abused by his parents? Did the parents in fact treat the story teller and his brother as shown, or was that the story teller's story of his childhood? Did the story teller kill his brother because his brother killed two children or ... ? Were two children killed or was it all a story of a story teller told by a story teller?

Equally importantly, the little girl wanted people to know that everybody is a story teller, whether they recognized it or not, and that everbody's stories influence every body else and everybody elses' stories. There's no way out of it. And so she wrote a story to get other people to tell stories, recognizing that some of the stories other people would tell of hers was that it was a wonderful story and others that it was a horrid one. Because she understood that sharing stories give us the capability to learn from each other, and so write richer and more satisfying stories in the future. And so at the end of her story she had the story telller put his stories in a box, optimistic that we would all learn over time to become better story tellers. And she decided to put her own story on the stage, with the same optimism.

Everyone may or may not live happily ever after, but the story teller found a wonderful director and theater to make her story available, and wonderful actors to perform it. And the story did indeed get other people to tell their own stories and perhaps learn from hearing others how to become better story tellers themselves.

"Friends and I are still talking about it. The stories we tell ourselves are the stories that help us live, sometimes. We will never stop telling stories."

Many thanks to Martin McDonagh (whom I know is a he instead of a she; it was a story), Jiri Zizka, and others at the Wilma for a rich, successful (and funny) lesson in story telling. I'm looking forward to the reprise of a saved box of stories in Galileo in the spring.

The Wilma's mission
Date: 2006-10-29 16:45:30
Link to this Comment: 20797

Again, it is very exciting to see the debate on this page. Like Glenn, I have always found The Pillowman to be "eerily optimistic." Because of some of the complaints that have appeared here and in letters to the Wilma, it feels useful to refer back to the Wilma's Artistic Mission (which can be found in full on the Wilma website).

The mission pledges productions that "engage our audiences in an aesthetic and philosophical examination of the complexities of contemporary life" and create an "atmosphere in which the audience feels inspired to share the most powerful and painful experiences of life." Our plays, "despite different themes, share a strong concern with the basic questions of man's existence and deal with those questions in a poignant, contemporary theatrical idiom." In my estimation, whether The Pillowman is a great play that will endure or not (and most plays, frankly, do not, its themes and the theatricality with which it expresses those themes place it directly within our mission. Its focus on narrative and identity also makes it a splendid starting point for a season that focuses on those concerns in relationship to a range of important historical and philosophical issues.


Date: 2006-10-30 19:16:55
Link to this Comment: 20814

I was just wondering what everyone's favorite part of the play was. I've asked a lot of people and they all had different responses.

What do you think?

Favorite Pillowtalk
Name: kathleen m
Date: 2006-10-30 19:52:30
Link to this Comment: 20815

For me, easily, it was the scene between the 2 brothers. Funny, strange, and moving. The 2 actors were out of this world.

A close 2nd, The Little Jesus story.

Thanks, Wilma.

Name: Mister RKO
Date: 2006-11-01 01:34:33
Link to this Comment: 20830

We left absolutely LIVID with the Wilma. Even the mile and a half walk home barely cooled us down. Truly, we'll rethink our subscription at this venue."

Maybe you should stop seeing plays. Honestly... quit whining. This is possible the most immature thing I've ever read in response to a play.

And The Pillowman is great. It encites a certain response and makes you think of things in different ways. Obviously, freedom of speech is something that's being tested more and more in this day and age, and The Pillowman makes you think about certain responsibilities that come with freedom of speech.

How anyone could call this play "Bad" is beyond me... In my opinion, if you can't handle art like this, then perhaps you're better off at home, reading Mother Goose and other assorted Nursery Rhymes.

Thank you Wilma
Name: jon davis
Date: 2006-11-04 19:05:05
Link to this Comment: 20862

Just want to say I, for one, will RENEW my subscription with the Wilma based on this play. Thanks for taking a risk, Wilma!

And, what a cast! Always good to see Mr. Pryor on the boards. And to our visitors from New York, don't let the curtain call response discourage you (the night I was there people whistled and cheered for only Mr. Pryor and Mr. Palmer). With all due respect to Mr. Pryor, he plays the most likable character in the play and, let's not forget, he's a Philly favorite! Please come and visit us again, Mr. Pemberten, Mr. Stadlen, and Mr. Palmer!!!!

J Davis

Thanks from Walter
Name: Walter
Date: 2006-11-05 17:58:21
Link to this Comment: 20870

We just closed the final performance of The Pillowman. I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has written to or read this forum over the run of the play. It has been very gratifying to see such a range of commentary on the play. We hope you will return for our next production, Athol Fugard's stirring My Children! My Africa! I suspect it will not provoke the outrage that Pillowman has done in some quarters, but the play poses essential moral and political questions about Africa, education, and other subjects that I hope will provoke discussion in this forum and hopefully elsewhere.

Walter Bilderback

Brutal Assault On My Senses
Name: Tom Kurzej
Date: 2006-11-06 08:29:13
Link to this Comment: 20883

I wrote to the director of - ah, whatever the guy's title is. James Haskins. Told him that I found the subject of triple child murder, especially the extremely graphic descriptions - and the author's rendering of it as a somehow humorous notion - offensive in the extreme and I wanted my money for the season back. Told me no, creative differences, artists are meant to disturb or shock, blah blah. Not returning my money to me represents a form of tyranny just as bad as censorship.

similar reactions to film
Name: Ann
Date: 2006-11-06 21:59:50
Link to this Comment: 20886

It's very striking to me that the spectrum of reactions to "The Pillowman" presented here are similar to the reactions I've heard to the film "Death of a President," which is a fictional account of the assassination of the sitting U.S. President. I wonder if we can learn something from that similarity. Is it the case that we *need to make arguments* for and against particular art, particular ideology, particular ways of seeing and experiences? Or that our culture defines this need to make arguments for and against?

While we all have a first reaction of thumbs up or thumbs down to art -- do I like this or dislike this -- I wouldn't want to stop there. Even with art that I've intensely disliked, maybe even particularly with art I've intensely disliked, there are interesting ideas to be explored. "Why did I hate it this much" could be a starting place for so much more. When there is evidence of my having a visceral reaction, a play or a film can tell me something about myself, e.g. my unconscious fears.

So if you loved this play or if you hated this play, ask yourself why. Maybe it can tell you something about yourself.

Stories, fairytales, legends and myths
Name: Rachel
Date: 2006-11-11 18:49:19
Link to this Comment: 20960

Dear Tom(s) - there are 2 of you in this blog,

I am sorry you felt the way you did about The Pillowman. While I understand your anger, disappointment, disgust, sense of having wasted your time, etc. I also feel you might have missed an opportunity to re-discover, re-think, re-visit the awe, the morbid fascination or fear that might have captivated you as children when you were told fairytales, or stories about monsters, witches, abandoned children gnomes and angry gods.

To me, The Pillowman is reminiscent of these horrible, gruesome, bloody yet mesmerizing and sometimes moralistic stories (fairytales, legends or myths - whatever you want to call them) that we tell our children **all over the world**. Storytelling is what makes us humans, what has gathered us for millennia around fires or hearths (think summer camps, here!) and allowed us to feel part of a group, a family or a community. More importantly, they have helped us conjure our fears as children, understand the limits of what our society(ies) think(s) is acceptable or not, and so on.

One might interpret/read The Pillowman the way they want. It does not matter at the end of the day what we "think" the play is about. The emotions that the story triggered in us, is what is interesting. That's what art is about. I hate Van Gogh, but love Klimt... why? I'm not sure. One speaks to me the other does not, but I dont go blaming museums for organizing exhibits of art I dont like.

The Pillowman has disturbed me for sure, but also reminded me that The Little Red Riding Hood gets devoured by the wolf; that Hansel and Gretel get abandoned by their parents in the woods; that Cinderella gets abused by her family; that Raspunsel gets locked in a tower for years; that Snow White's step mother wants her killed... The Pillowman reminded how "delightful" it was to be bit scared and disturbed from time to time and that it was OK.

(For those of you who are into fairy tales, their interpretations, and/or their place in our common psyche, and society, I highly recommend anything written by Maria Tatar)

Name: Erik Dyhrk
Date: 2006-11-14 16:57:43
Link to this Comment: 20990

Pillowman was simply awful. The writing was abysmal, and the plot was wandering and offensive. I left at the break.

I saw Pillowman at the Steppenwolf in Chicago. I'm likely to switch my season tickets to another theater next year.

Date: 2006-11-24 13:29:41
Link to this Comment: 21170

I just want to say that everyone has their own opinons and if u or anyone else does not agree with them then thats is that. If someone does not like this play, then that is how they feel, if u feel differently then thats u, but do not down anyone else b/c of their thoughts. Not everyone is going to agree!!! Thanks that is all people, have a great day

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Name: Webmaster
Date: 2006-11-28 14:34:35
Link to this Comment: 21207

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