Kirt Shineman’s ‘Good Grief’

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Kirt Shineman, a Communications teacher at Glendale Community College, will be releasing a new play in New York this coming September. His play “Good Grief” won him the prestigious O’Neill award here in Arizona. Shineman is hoping that this play will become a success.

Shineman wrote plays when he was younger but did not pursue them until 2006. He would write plays and they were performed by the Forensics Team at GCC. A student encouraged him to sell his scripts to theatre companies. Shineman began working for Phoenix Theatre Company and began writing plays that connected to his life and experiences.

“Everything in the play is something from me…To a point its partially me and it’s from other people in my life.”

“Good Grief” is the story about Marie, a mother and a teacher, who forces her son to attend a study abroad program with her in Belgium. While visiting the Comics Art Museum in Brussels, a terrorist attacks the building and kills her son Charlie. The play is an emotional journey with Marie as she learns to forgive herself, her son and accept the terrorist for who he really is.

The play is fictional, but Shineman did a lot of research to bring the terrorist attack and the aftermath to life.

In 2016, GCC was planning a trip to Brussels. The trip was canceled on account of a deadly terrorist attack that happened at the Brussels airport. Shineman noticed that most people back in the United States were unaware of the attack at the airport, and those that did know were indifferent.

Many of the people saw the attacks as a rarity that only affected people elsewhere. Shineman wrote the play as a call to action.

“Now 20 years later [after the Columbine shooting] we are still shocked that this happens and we don’t react in a way that’s actually trying to start to change behaviors… With this play I am trying to show that it’s us, it’s all of us. We are in this together. We need to find ways to confront and call it for what it really is. It’s murder, it’s devastating, it’s horrendous, it’s real,” Shineman said.

Shineman does this by incorporating the theories that he lectures about in his classes. If students were to see the play, they would be able to pick out the five stages of grief and the family communication theories that Shineman refers to in his courses.

In the play, Marie sees illusions of her son Charlie dressed up as Charlie Brown. In a tragedy that involves unexpected death, 80 percent of survivors witness illusions, or “ghosts” in a sense, of the person that died. These illusions are associated with the stages of grief that are discussed in Shineman’s class.

“She doesn’t want to see the last image of him, which is shot and covered with bullet holes. It is about her acceptance of his death,” Shineman said.

That is another theme in the play, the acceptance of death and shocking tragedies. When a child dies, it breaks the expectation that the child will outlive their parents. This is what makes the death so devastating and leaves a mark on society.

Marie has to learn to forgive herself for the events that she had been involved in. Throughout the play she learns to accept her part in her son’s death and how she had forced him to go on the trip that resulted in his death.

“I think it will incite forgiveness because the main character is afraid at the beginning but in the end she is forgiven. You travel the play with her and she goes through the stages of grief and forgiveness. By the end, she has found a way to forgive herself,” Shineman said.

This parallels the attacks that have been terrorizing European countries as of recently, especially the Charlie Hebdo attacks and protests of 2015.

Charles Schultz, the man who created the famous Peanuts comic strip, was hired by the magazine Charlie Hebdo many years ago. Charles Schultz began drawing Peanuts comics used to make fun of Europeans. After Charles Schultz, Charlie Hebdo continued with the theme but made fun of Americans instead. As refugees from war torn Middle Eastern countries moved to European countries, Charlie Hebdo began making fun of those cultures.

They made fun of the Muslim prophet Mohammad, drawing the character with a bomb in his turban. This angered the growing Muslim communities in Europe. Terrorists from these communities have protested and bombed the Charlie Hebdo publication center.

After the attacks, the words Je Suis Charlie were adorned on the side of buildings as a way to honor those that were affected by the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo.

“Good Grief” resembles the way European countries had to forgive themselves for bringing the terrorist attacks upon themselves as well as the terrorists that created so much fear.

“The terrorist is chasing Charlie Brown through her memories and she has to remove her cultural prejudices and view of him to see who he really was. He is a terrorist in a suit.”

The play also exposes the disenfranchisement of refugees not only in Belgium but also in the United States. In Belgium, many of the terrorists came from a neighborhood in Brussels that was created for refugees. These refugees were forgotten and treated unfairly. They were often unable to find jobs because of the language barrier and lack of assistance from the government. The terrorist in the play experiences these hardships, becoming angry with his situation and the government.

“We ignore the case of a lot of the shootings. We ignore their [Refugees] poverty. We ignored their non-inclusion,” Shineman said. This realization in the play is a call for change, for people to accept one another and help those in less fortunate situations.

“Good Grief” will be coming out in New York City in September. Students are encouraged to see the show if they are in New York City at the time. Shineman looks forward to the play coming out and hopes to see it come to Arizona and possibly even GCC someday.