Always look on the bright side of life

Daniel Thau-Eleff’s latest play is a comedy despite the heavy subject matter

U of W theatre graduate Daniel Thau-Eleff wrote and stars in Good People Bad Things, a new one man show. Supplied

If genocide is like an assembly line, who is to blame? How do normal people commit horrific crimes?

These are just a few of the questions that Daniel Thau-Eleff and the Moving Target Theatre Company pose, hoping to leave their audience thinking with Good People Bad Things.

University of Winnipeg theatre graduate Thau-Eleff wrote and stars in this new one man show about evil.

A devoted activist, Thau-Eleff has also been involved in the Winnipeg theatre community,having written such shows as Three Ring Circus: Israel, the Palestinians and My Jewish Identity and Remember the Night, both of which won the Harry S. Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoba Play from the 2004 and 2008 Winnipeg Fringe Festivals, respectively.

He formed Moving Target Theatre Company in 2003.

The show is a collaborative piece, born of Thau-Eleff’s conversations with friends, and his partnerships with director Chris Gerrard-Pinker and stage manager Melissa Novecosky.

“My first play I wrote was a one-man show (Three Ring Circus), and I really missed it and I wanted to do it again,” Thau-Eleff, 32, says. “I really love the direct address format.”

Thau-Eleff is particularly passionate about the movement for peace in Israel and Palestine, as well as his Jewish heritage, both aspects of his life that he explored in Three Ring Circus.

He was also inspired by writer and philosopher Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which poses the theory that great atrocities in history were committed not by sociopaths, but by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state, which therefore “normalized the unthinkable.”

To depict genocide, Thau-Eleff borrowed a metaphor from a past professor, comparing it to a car-building assembly line.

“At this end of the line there’s nothing at all, and at this end there’s a whole car. Who built the car?

“This guy didn’t do it, he just put the windshield on, and this one didn’t do it, they just tightened the nuts on the wheels, and this guy just hired people, and this guy just did the accounting. But sure enough, there’s a car.

“If we can see that this car is being built, how do we intervene in that process?”

Through Good People Bad Things, Thau-Eleff follows several story lines, including Eichmann’s, as well as a couple in love whose dreams come true, only to have them crash down upon them.

While exploring such dense material and history, Thau-Eleff’s work is a comedy.

“Arendt’s book was, to me, the first honest attempt I had seen to get inside one of the perpetrators of the Holocaust, and someone who is infinitely less sensational than Hitler, or Mengele or Goebbels. This is a bureaucrat, this is a very ordinary guy. It raises questions about the nature of evil.

“So we’re trying to get right into the middle of this, and also keep it kind of light.”

Good People Bad Things runs from Thursday, Oct. 18 to Sunday, Oct. 28 at the Rudolph Rocker (3rd floor of the A-Zone Co-op, 91 Albert St.) 8 p.m. nightly, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays and no shows Mondays. Tickets are $18 or $13 for students/seniors. For tickets call
204-221-1120 or email


Published in Volume 67, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 17, 2012)

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