Playwright/ Director Phil Blechman on the set of 'The Black Book.'

Playwright/ Director Phil Blechman on the set of ‘The Black Book.’

America’s insane obsession with racism leads her up the suicidal path… Malcolm X

The media is often filled with stories of suicide. In a recent story about the discovery of a letter Malcolm X wrote 51 and just sold at auction for $1.25 million, Malcolm states that, “…America’s insane obsession with racism leads her up the suicidal path, nearer to the precipice that leads to the bottomless pits below…” “The Black Book,” one of the most riveting, thought provoking and cinematically staged plays to hit off-Broadway, delves into sucicide and hits home on many levels.

In an exclusive interview with director/playwright Phil Blechman, he talked about self worth and necessary suicide dialogue.

What do you hope this play will do to add to the conversation about suicide? PHIL BLECHMA: I think this show is only as powerful as people are talking about it. My motivation for doing it is because I want to have those conversations with people. I want other people to have those conversations. I think it’s a very, very important topic. The weight of suicide has only increased in the last decade, primarily among the millennial generation.

With so much available to the millennials, why is this so?

PB: There are many people that are going through big life changes where they are not sure of themselves. They don’t know what they’re worth and everybody does have worth. Everybody needs to not be afraid if they have an opinion or thought. Or, they want to share something that other people are also dealing with; nobody should be embarrassed about opening up about those kinds of things.

We shouldn’t have to define ourselves based on the expectations of what we want people to perceive us as. I think people should feel comfortable to open up about those sort of things, and I think that seeing this production has given people an experience that they can share and feel comfortable to do so.

Haley Dean and David Siciliano in a scene from 'The Black Book.'

Haley Dean and David Siciliano in a scene from ‘The Black Book.’

Why tackle this subject?

PB: The genesis of the idea came from a classmate of mine that I actually went to school with who hung himself. None of my classmates expected it. It confounded everybody and I remember seeing the impact that it had on them because nobody understood why. Everybody was saying, ‘why would he do this? What was going on in his head?’ And so that got my mind working. I wanted to understand as well. Nobody seemed to have an answer for it or anything like that. So I did some research and this play is an exploration to see what would go through somebody’s mind to bring them to that point.

Three friends of mine I’ve known for almost eight, nine years came to see the show. Afterwards, we went out and had a drink. Two of them, as they were talking about it, revealed they both attempted suicide. None of us knew! None of us knew about this like huge life changing moment. I’m watching these two guys who had known each other the majority of their lives, but never exchanged this information. It was an incredible conversation. They shared the experience and how happy they are now that they never acted on it.

“The Black Book” tells the story of a college student, who disguises his suicide note in a poem and leaves it in his poetry professor’s classroom. The apprehensive professor is compelled to delve into his student’s past and unravel the clues within his poem in an attempt to save him. “The Black Book” propels audiences through a psychological chess game; challenging the audience to always stay one move ahead.

Gabe Templin, Anto Pereira, David Siciliano, Margy Love, Sean Borderes, Haley Dean, Catie Humphreys, and Joe Reece are featured in the cast. The playing schedule for “The Black Book” is  Mondays and Sundays at 7 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8PM. with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at www.theblackbook.nyc or call 802-282-4289.

The first 20 to respond will receive free tickets by contacting [email protected] .

Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]