17 Minutes- The Afermath of a Shooting

We invited playwright Scott Organ to tell us about 17 Minutes at the Edinburgh Fringe.

17 Minutes, at the Edinburgh Fringe, is a powerful play that explores the aftermath of a school shooting and the impact it has on a community. We invited playwright Scott Organ to write about his play, its background, the theatre company and the prospect of bringing it to Edinburgh.

17 Minutes is the story of a man named Andy Rubens who may or may not have done what he was hired to do in a moment of crisis - a mere 17 minutes that irrevocably changes lives forever. What happens when a beloved Sheriff’s Deputy, charged with protecting children, fails to prevent a tragedy? Who is to blame? When the news vans leave town and a community is left torn and wrecked in the wake of the tragedy, how can they persevere? Do they persevere? These questions were at the forefront of my mind when I set out to write Andy’s story. 17 Minutes found its home at my artistic home - the Off-Broadway theater company The Barrow Group, directed by my longtime collaborator Seth Barrish, and performed by actors I’ve known for years and trust implicitly. We had a terrific critically-acclaimed and extended run of the show in 2020. It was the finest production I’ve ever been involved with. Theater Pizzazz called it “Brilliant! A work of empathy and startling compassion.” Theaterscene called it “an extraordinary piece of theater that should be widely seen".

In March 2020 we closed. We felt we had connected with audiences night after night and the whole experience felt communal in the way that theater ideally can. Two weeks later, New York City started to shut down due to the pandemic and we all dispersed to our homes to wait out the coming weeks. It was an abrupt end to what had become an incredible theatrical experience for all of us, which is why we are so excited to be able to reassemble the whole ensemble and give this production a second life at EdFringe.

This is a unique ensemble - we are all connected to The Barrow Group - the director Seth Barish and actor Lee Brock are co-artistic directors of the company which was founded in 1986. Seth and Lee are married and there are two other married couples in this ensemble, and the two remaining actors have been involved with TBG for many years. We know each other so well and trust each other. We have a common language and shorthand with each other. And we have fun with each other. (We are already planning weekly family-style dinners in Edinburgh!) When we brought our original stage manager Allison Parker into the fold, we knew the band was back together. Veteran Edfringe producer Marshall Cordell jumped on board with The Barrow Group (Robert Serrell, Executive Director) and their partnership has made this production possible. Another fact about our ensemble (actors, director and playwright) is that we all have children who live in a country where the leading cause of death for children and teens is guns. This play feels personal for all of us because it is personal.

As early as 2020, we started talking about bringing the show to Edinburgh. None of the actors or writer or director had been and we had always wanted to. A question we asked ourselves was how would this story resonate with non-American audiences. I can only imagine the rest of the world is perplexed at what’s going on with us and might be intrigued and horrified by our story. Ultimately, this is a universal story about people who are faced with unspeakable loss. Andy’s story is our own in many ways. We have all stood by while tragedy unfolds all around us, whether that be climate change, war or gun violence. And like Andy, we may face it with denial. But the only way forward might be through introspection and willingness to engage with the notion of our own complicity.

With Andy, we are left with a wrecked man facing the mutual exclusivity of his want to defend himself and his need to come to terms with his own complicity. He can’t defend or exonerate himself if he’s complicit. And he can’t forgive himself or be forgiven if he’s only there to defend. It’s untenable. Something must give. This is what 17 Minutes is about.

Related Listings

17 Minutes

17 Minutes

The play 17 Minutes explores the communal and residual effects of a shooting through Andy, a man who struggles with his own complicity in the tragedy, and who seeks meaning in the … 

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