Featured Staff Pick

The Designated Mourner
A summary of Wallace Shawn’s The Designated Mourner reads like a story we recognize. An authoritarian state, an insurgency led by the downtrodden masses, political executions of major intellectual figureheads — we are both estranged from and familiar with these concepts as Americans. We read them in the newspapers or in our high school history textbooks. However, as we spiral further into the poetic mess of Wallace Shawn’s text, we lose our comfortable distance. The Designated Mourner exists at the very intersection of politics, aesthetics, and deeply personal thought, asking hard questions and giving few answers. I encountered the play first in a sound design class in college, and it sent me spiraling into an ongoing inner debate about what I was learning as a theatre major. What defined the bounds of “culture” for me, and how did that interact with my class? My race? My political beliefs? The beliefs of others? Even now, years after I encountered this play for the first time, it quickens my blood in a way that few other political plays do. It is not a simple call to action or an account of history. It speaks to my deepest political energies — my proud sense of purpose and my shameful political impotence — relentlessly asking, “Where do you stand? What do you do? How? Why?”

Jake Lasser, project coordinator, artistic and international programs (former)