We first noticed Ruben Grijalva, the second of our San Francisco Playhouse–commissioned playwrights to be produced this season, when we saw his production of Anna Considers Mars, which had been itself commissioned by Playground and directed by our co-founder, Susi Damilano, in the Playground Festival, 2019. We were immediately taken by the original quirky nature of Ruben’s voice, his complex and unpredictable characters, and his fearlessness in attacking thorny issues with humor. He and Susi had a great time working together so we suggested he write a new play for us as a part of our five-year, 20-play commission program.
Ruben sent us four possible scenarios that were each so compelling, we had a difficult time choosing between them. We settled on Shoot Me When… because of its universal themes about the loss of awareness in old age and complex issue of when life ceases to be worth living. The difficult questions: how can we prepare for the time when our mental capacity will be inevitably diminished? Can a family prepare to honor the wishes of elders who choose not to go on? Who has the right to decide these things? Can we imagine a society where the right to die can be honored? Who decides when an individual loses the capacity to make decisions for themselves?
These are the most difficult of questions and there are no easy answers. We are lucky to have the theatre, where we can put characters in motion who will wrestle with insoluble problems for us and we can form our own answers by watching and empathizing with their struggle. Which of us has not dealt with an elder who is losing their grasp of this temporal reality? They slip away from us, often seeming not to be their true selves. How many parents or grandparents have told their offspring they didn’t want to continue living when they no longer know who and where they were?
Mr. Grijalva gives us such an elder and two of her children with the courage to take their Mom at her word when she says “Shoot me when…”Such a story could perhaps be too grim for our stage were it not for the playwright’s ability to make us care deeply about his characters’ dilemmas, his resolute impartiality to skate along the razor’s edge between right and wrong, and his wacky, comic voice. I feel honored to take this deep dive into the most difficult of human dramas by the side of the talented Ruben Grijalva.
– Artistic Director
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