Do no self-harm
Actor and playwright Ben Moroski’s one-man play about self-injury takes on the mind’s deepest cuts
The Ooley Theatre2007 28th St.
Sacramento, CA 95818
Ben Moroski, who graduated from Davis High School and earned an English degree from UC Davis—he won a Kennedy Center award for his playwriting work there—is also familiar to local theater fans from his work on area stages. In addition to a number of student productions, Moroski has also been onstage at the Murphys Creek Theatre and Resurrection Theatre and KOLT Run Creations in Sacramento.
SN&R spoke with him by phone for this story.
How’s it been down in Los Angeles? Is the show going well?
Ben Moroski: It’s been real nice, and things are going well. The show opened at The Hollywood Fringe Festival in June. That was the first time in full production. I’d had an informal staged reading in April.
I’d moved here last June to do a stepped-down psychiatric treatment program, and one of the people from that program developed the show with me. The program asked that you set a goal for yourself—not something treatment related—and [it’ll] help you reach that goal.
And the show was your goal?
Well, not exactly this show. For some reason, I’d wanted to do a one-man show. I wanted to do something fictional, but he suggested, “Why don’t you try writing about yourself?”
I resisted that. I wanted to write about something more interesting.
I didn’t want to be one of those people who write about a problem that they’ve had. It wasn’t appealing to me. I’ve seen and enjoyed a number of those—and even loved some—but it’s a real difficult one. There’s a tendency to just be me up here talking about my problem or issue or addiction for an hour-and-a-half while everyone listens.
Not all of them are that self-involved, but I know the kind of introspection you’re talking about. Sometimes your own experience can be a really great resource, if you don’t fall into it too deeply and just take it as a rich source.
I didn’t want to fall into that trap. I don’t think I fully grasped until I started writing how rich that field could be. If you’re really honest and willing to dig deep, it’s a different process.
My goal all the way along has been to approach not to look for answers or to prove myself right, but to get to the truth. And the truth is, I’m never going to figure it all out, especially when it’s a subject like self-injury that is murky and difficult to understand and to relate to for most people.
There’s a lot more research coming out now, though. I’ve seen things linking self-injury to eating disorders and other addictions.
Even though there’s better research—there’s a woman at Cornell [University] who’s doing a lot of research—and even though there’s more research, it’s still in our veins as something that’s surrounded by shame, misunderstanding, judgment.
And that’s OK. The first step toward addressing those things is that it’s not bad. Those are real feelings, and it’s growing out of those that’s getting to be productive.
Well, and to become art, it has to retain that authenticity along with the artifice.
My experience with this show is that people respond to the authenticity. They may never have cut themselves before, but it’s honest enough and comes from a real place that it can resonate with your story because I’m willing to tell you mine.
Everyone has pain. Everyone has to find ways to cope with it. Everyone has to find ways to live in the only moment we’ve got, which is the present one. Even if it’s the most painful, vicious moment, it’s still the only one I’ve got.
And everyone’s got to do that, whatever your vices or issues, whether they show up on your skin or not. We’re all dealing with something.