Too much audience involvement

imagesWhen I was about 11, my parents took me to a Broadway production of All the Way Home which nearly ended badly from an excess of dramatic involvement. Based on Agee’s Death in the Family, a young father dies in a car accident on a bumpy back road. The grieving widow’s none-too-helpful brother is explaining how Jay hit his chin just hard enough on just the exact “right” spot to create a fatal blow. A half inch over, the brother continues, and Jay would be right here with us, or . . .  a little to the left or right, or with less force, he would be horribly crippled. Imagine, just that one spot . . .

The drama barreled on, but I didn’t, musing on the mystery of that spot. I leaned forward, tapping my chin thoughtfully on the seat in front of me until a strong hand took me by the shoulder and yanked me back. “Stop that!” my father whispered.

“I was just trying to find . . . ”

“Well don’t.” That’s the problem with drama. You want audience involvement but maybe not too much.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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