the take

How Long Before Someone Produces Cho Seung-Hui’s Plays?

ColumbinusPhoto: Wes Duvall

Anyone who’s taken a creative-writing workshop remembers the one student whose work was so weird and bad it was embarrassing to discuss. Now imagine if that student was Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui. A former classmate posted two of Cho’s plays on AOL’s news blog; they are so frightening that it’s easy to imagine how uncomfortable those classes became. And Cho’s awkward, bizarre plays seem almost completely unstageable: In Richard McBeef, a wife throws a dinner plate at her husband, nailing him in the forehead. Characters brandish a chainsaw. And then there’s the following stage direction: “Richard runs out of the house and into his car. Thirty minutes later John goes out to Richard and sits on the passenger’s side eating a cereal bar.”

Surely Cho’s plays doesn’t matter, since no one would ever put a mass murderer’s work up on stage, right? Don’t be so sure: last year, New York Theater Workshop produced Columbinus, a play drawn substantially from the diaries and video journals of Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The play wasn’t met with outrage; instead, it was received as a well-staged, flawed but noble attempt to understand the roots of violence. It’ll even be up for two Lortel Awards next month. Ten years from now, will someone stage Richard McBeef and Mr. Brownstone? Probably so.

Related: New York’s review of Columbinus [NYM]

How Long Before Someone Produces Cho Seung-Hui’s Plays?