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2004-10-21

First and Final Edition: NY Actor Wally Shawn Discusses the First and Last Issue of His Journal

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Actor and playwright Wally Shawn joins us in our studio to talk about the first and last edition of his newspaper. It’s called "Final Edition: Volume One, Number One, The Last Issue." [includes rush transcript]

You may know him from his roles in: "Manhattan", "The Princess Bride", "We’re No Angels", "Clueless", "Toy Story", "Vegas Vacation" and "Star Trek." In 1981, he wrote and acted in the film "My Dinner with Andre."

He has appeared in scores of TV shows and is a published author and playwright. Several of his plays have been produced off-Broadway, including Marie and Bruce, Aunt Dan and Lemon, and The Designated Mourner. His latest play The Fever, has just been released as a film, starring Vanessa Redgrave.

And he has now put out the first and last edition of a newspaper. It’s called Final Edition: Volume One, Number One, The Last Issue.

I’m talking about New York actor and playwright Wally Shawn.

  • Wallace Shawn, editor of the one-off political magazine Final Issue published in conjunction with Seven Stories. He is a playwright and author. Several of his plays have been produced off-Broadway, including Marie and Bruce, Aunt Dan and Lemon, and The Designated Mourner. His play The Fever, has just been released as a film, starring Vanessa Redgrave. Shawn has appeared in over 60 films and many television shows.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You may know him for acting in Manhattan, The Princess Bride, We’re No Angels, Clueless, Toy Story, Vegas Vacation and "Star Trek." In 1981, he wrote and acted in the film, My Dinner With Andre. He has appeared in scores of TV shows and is a playwright and author. Several of his plays have been produced off-Broadway, including "Marie and Bruce," "Aunt Dan and Lemon," "The Designated Mourner." His latest play, "The Fever," has just been released as a film starring Vanessa Redgrave.

AMY GOODMAN: And now he has just put out the first and last edition of a journal. It is called, "Final Edition," volume one, number one, the last issue. We are talking about New York actor and playwright Wally Shawn. He joins us in our studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!

WALLY SHAWN: Great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Here we are holding the first and last edition. Why "The Final Edition?"

WALLY SHAWN: Well, I suppose it’s because I don’t really do this. It’s just like graffiti, expression for the moment, and it’s a gathering of a group of my friends, I suppose, to respond to this particular very upsetting moment, and after we have said what we have to say, we won’t keep repeating it and boring people. We will just disappear and go our separate ways. It’s an expression of a moment like a message in a bottle of some kind.

AMY GOODMAN: It says "Final Edition" on the cover. "Invitation to a Degraded World" by Jonathan Schell; interview with Noam Chomsky by you, Wallace Shawn; "The Webern Variations" by Mark Strand, a poem; "Before the Election — Fragments of a Diary 2004" by you, Wallace Shawn; and "Twilight of the Superheroes," a short story by Deborah Eisenberg. Why these selections?

WALLY SHAWN: I suppose they — Well, Deborah Eisenberg 's story is in a way about how people stay in the same place. We're born here or we come here, and the meaning of that place completely changes, and that certainly happened to everybody in my generation. The meaning of America has changed, and I think all of us in the issue are responding to that issue in a way, of — of the fact that when we were all growing up we thought it was — that the United States was a — We all came from idealistic homes, I suppose, where we hoped that the United States was a force that would make the world a happier place; and now we find ourselves deeply implicated in trying to trample people and squash them. I mean, I have had a very easy life, basically, and everything’s been very easy for me because I’m a privileged member of — a privileged class in the United States of America. And I — so I’m involved. It’s all being done for my benefit. And this is a moment, as I say, sort of in the beginning of the issue, where we — the cards are sort of on the table. The American public has had an opportunity to see the crimes that are committed in its name; and they seem to have had very little reaction. I mean, the photographs of Abu Ghraib are undeniable, and yet it really passed like the most trivial scandal. No one has resigned. The President hasn’t resigned. Nobody has abased themselves on television and said we apologize for these horrors and we’re resigning. And the opposition candidates and different — you know, have not said, well, everyone in the government has to resign because this is — this is a terrible thing. It’s not really even discussed. It’s a very creepy moment; and these are people that I trust and care about, and it’s as if I’ve called them into a little room and said, "What do we feel about this? How can we be here and how can we — you know, how can we keep on living the pleasant life that we live?"

JUAN GONZALEZ: Let me ask you, there are quite a few artists, writers, filmmakers who have felt compelled in the past year to make a statement in these final months and weeks of this election. And how — how decisive is the next few weeks for you as — you as an artist and a performer, and for the rest — how you feel in terms of the rest of America? How important the next few weeks are to the future of the country?

WALLY SHAWN: Well, I — I think that, you know, it’s an awful situation. I don’t — certainly things are not going to become — I mean, Kerry will be like Clinton or maybe worse. He’s — people don’t usually — you know, they rarely surprise you in a good way; but I think that, yeah, it’s important to tell the world that, you know, we didn’t like this, the things that have happened under Bush. I think we have to make the statement — that, you know, we don’t want to go on that road anymore. So, you know, for me it’s humiliating to vote for Kerry, because I don’t respect him; but I would — I will — it’s unpleasant, it’s like killing a big rat that is running around your apartment. It must be done. But you’re not proud of it. But you have to do it. So, we have to tell other people, I think, that, you know, we didn’t approve.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Wally Shawn, in our next segment, we have an interview with Noam Chomsky, as you do, in this Final Edition, and we have to turn to that. I want to thank you for being with us. I know tonight, "Final Edition Live" will be taking place at the new Rubin Museum of Art in New York City at 150 West 17th Street at 9:30. We hope to cover that with Jonathan Schell, with yourself, with Deborah Eisenberg, and hopefully we’ll be able to bring some of the speeches to our viewers and listeners. Wally Shawn, actor, playwright and now editor for one issue, "The Final Edition." This is Democracy Now!

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