Death and the Maiden

Sixteen years ago, I bought a marble notebook, which I promptly filled. What was contained in those pages, were notes for something called ‘Adam’s Big Day!’ and it felt like a suicide note.

Those scribbled notes would, over several years, evolve into a screenplay called Apostrophe. What I must write about tonight is  a particular moment that has been present in every incarnation, every draft. In that story there is a beat before a meticulously planned confrontation and videotaped interrogation of an abuser by the abused, that had been years in the making. That moment has always been labeled: Death & the Maiden. In the script, before he knocks on the door of the perpetrator of the crimes that he endured, he steels himself with a deep breath and mutters the words aloud to the only person who knows,  cares or can hear “Death & the Maiden.”

In 1998, when I was 23 years old, I attended a screening at New York’s Town Hall of Les Miserables, the latest adaptation for the screen by the writer Rafael Yglesias. When the film and the Q & A session had finished, I made my way to the front. I heard myself saying “Thank you for being here tonight, thank you for Fearless, and thank you for Death & the Maiden.” The entire interaction was perhaps three seconds long, but it felt important for me to let this writer know that his work, both original and adapted, was important to me as well. I was in NYU at the time and just finding my voice in all possible ways. As a writer, as a fledgling filmmaker, as a human. Mr. Yglesias received the words kindly and I left it at that. I said all that I was capable of saying in that moment.

Death and the Maiden; Schubert to Dorfman to Yglesias, stayed with me. I had daydreamed about getting my answers, about saying what I needed to say and reversing the old power imbalance  during a filmed interview with one criminal in particular for fifteen years.

Tonight, that daydream became a reality. The non sequitur below, a decade and a half in the making, understandably passed without comment.

Via Twitter rather than on an aircraft carrier: A monumental mission accomplished moment.

Someday I will write tens of thousands of words about this experience. Minimal amounts of that, I’m sure I will share here. Forgive the disjointed nature of this. For once, I allow myself that.

Tonight I will breath.

Just as the unfinished, desperate purge & plea of Adam’s Big Day was the germ of the script Apostrophe, the embryonic Untitled Mentor Project finally grew up tonight to be exactly what it should be: the feature documentary Coached into Silence.

What was once my thinly veiled fiction about shame & vengeance, is now in fact about only the truth and how that truth can serve a greater good.

Life imitating art? Art imitating life? Artless self-fulfilling prophecy/collision of reel & real life?

It was preparation by pre-visualization. It was practicing how you intend to play.

Just like my coach taught me.