Madison play nearly scrapped after Orlando tragedy

Dan Myers directs original play 'Bar Games'
Madison play nearly scrapped after Orlando tragedy
Dan Myers: "I just want you to sit back and feel like a human being—and then talk about it." 

In 2008, Warner Bros. cancelled showings of “The Dark Knight Returns” in the wake of a deadly shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Back in 2004, Clint Eastwood delayed the release of his film “Hereafter” because it featured a massive tsunami–the same type of natural disaster that had just devastated Singapore.

So when local playwright Dan Myers first got the news about the mass shooting in Orlando two weeks ago, he gave serious pause.

“My first, human reaction was ‘Oh, @#$&! I’m doing a show about a serial killer in a bar.'”

Myers is directing his original play “Bar Games” at Broom Street Theater beginning on July 1. The play’s disquieting, somewhat “Saw”-like plot concerns an armed woman who traps seven people in a bar, forcing them to guess her motive…. or die. And they have to pick the order in which they venture their guesses.

Myers thought about scrapping his show outright in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“How do I tell this story now that something like this has really happened?” he asks. “We’ve never had something like this directed at one segment of the population before. I thought, I can’t tell this story, because it would ne insincere and disrespectful.”

But then he had a talk with his cast mates in “Queer Shorts 2.0: The Reboot,” the Bartell Theater show he wrapped last week. They convinced him that rather than shocking and offending an emotionally wounded public, “Bar Games” could instead start an important dialogue on the increasing number of acts of seemingly senseless violence.

“We never really talk about the hate,” Myers says. “What does it take to walk into a bar and kill a group of people?”

Myers, who’s known for his pull-no-punches style of storytelling (see his play “Finding Human”) says he never considered altering his script or inserting an addendum to his director’s notes to explain his decision to proceed with it.

“The minute I say anything, I’m minimizing the impact,” he notes. “If we’re going to discuss this, let’s discuss it. I don’t want to take anyone out of the show.”

In fact, he’s actually taken a few extra steps to put the audience further into the show. Myers constructed the show’s set so that audience members have to go through what looks like the bar’s door, further embedding them within the world of the play.

Myers’ biggest worry now is that his audience is going to think he’s being flippant or exploitative. But he’s been where the characters in his play have been–staring down the barrel of a gun, contemplating what suddenly seems like a hollow life–and that’s the horrible feeling he’s looking to evoke with “Bar Games.”

“I just want you to sit back and feel like a human being–and then talk about it,” he says.

“Bar Games” runs July 1-23 at Broom Street Theater. For ticket information please click here.