I always browse yahoo news when checking my e-mail, especially if something catches my eye. It’s not the best source of news, I know, but if there’s a huge earthquake or tornado somewhere I usually know about it. Sometimes I’m disgusted by what I see (reporting on fashion trends over revolutions for example), sometimes terrified (earthquakes, suicide bombings, etc.), but rarely am I inspired. A few days ago however, I was first intrigued, then shocked, then incredibly moved by an article that I read. In Zanesville, Ohio, Terry Thompson killed himself after setting all of his many exotic animals free. Some speculated that it was “an f-you to his neighbors” who had never much liked him and often complained about his menagerie of a backyard. Others were unsure of his motives, no one seemed to know him too well. Police made the decision to shoot the freed animals on site to protect the terrified community. They were afraid that if they simply used tranquilizers the animals would run off before they took effect and wake up in an unknown location. Several bears, lions, and tigers were shot, including many Bengal tigers, an endangered species. Some citizens were relieved to hear of the deaths, others saddened. “At a nearby Moose Lodge, Bill Weiser said: “It’s breaking my heart, them shooting those animals.””
I found this article fascinating. Usually news of suicide makes me sad, but this one made me creatively inspired. What an interesting and bizarre story! What a great play this would make! Who was Terry Thompson? Mean and grumpy or misunderstood? Why did he feel the need to keep exotic creatures in his backyard? Terry had previously been charged with animal abuse. But his final gesture was to set them free! Was it really to scorn his neighbors, or was it a metaphorical liberation, which he followed by freeing himself from this world? It is tragic that the animals gained their freedom only to be shot dead. Also, there is still one monkey unaccounted for. Where has it escaped to? My attraction to this story got me thinking about what makes an exciting play, what are interesting elements of storytelling. This is a very strange story that happens in a very ‘normal’ place. granted I’ve never been to Zanesville, but it is a small Ohio town, not somewhere I’d expect exotic beasts to be kept. In my improv class we were talking about how people find things funny when there is a normal person in a strange location, or a strange person in a normal location. In my Anthropology class Sophomore year, we discussed how we think things are gross when they are out of place, especially when the private happens in the public sphere, or vis a versa. Could it be that we also find this incongruency funny? Captivating? Terry’s story has the magnitude of a greek tragedy or a durang comedy depending on how you look at it. Either way, it is an extreme story in which an outrageous event occurs with plenty of room to project our own images/feeling/beliefs onto. The more specific the event, the better canvas it is for the actors and audience to paint on. This story, though strange, is incredibly daring and specific. Now all I need to do is write the play!
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