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“Anger Is Awesome”: Martin Moran’s Quest to Find Where Rage Meets Compassion

Martin Moran
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

“Nice is OK. But let’s admit it: anger is awesome.” That’s what playwright and actor Martin Moran says in his one-man play All the Rage during a scene in which he recounts the time he watched a well-dressed woman on a Manhattan corner scream murderously at an aggressive Humvee driver. “That woman is full of poison,” he goes on to say, “and I need to drink some of that.”

All the RageThe poison, of course, is rage, a potent and complicated emotion that’s dangerous when wielded outward, and equally harmful when left to smolder inside. Moran decided to go on a quest to examine rage when prompted by people who often asked him “Why aren’t you angry?” after he’d told his story of how he forgave the man who sexually abused him as a boy for three years. Previously, he had written about coming to terms with the trespass of his childhood in his memoir The Tricky Part. But the question of rage, asked repeatedly by others, still haunted him. Why didn’t he have more anger? Did he leap too soon to forgiveness? Was he avoiding or unaware of his own buried rage? And what exactly is rage anyway? What purpose does it serve in our lives? Moran went on his quest to find out.

Moran’s journeys took him from Colorado to New York to Johannesburg. He found himself in a wild confrontation with his fuming stepmother, in a room translating the details of an asylum seeker’s torture, in an S&M dungeon with a group of sex therapists, and lost in Africa with a guide who couldn’t read maps. In each of these encounters, Moran found himself looking deeper into the complexities of the human condition: into how we wrong and are wronged, how we seek redress but also forgiveness, how we yearn to mend what we think is broken in us and liberate ourselves from what’s past.

With humility, humor, and masterful storytelling, he wove these experiences together into his one-man play. Adapted and expanded from the same play, his new memoir All the Rage, just released this week, illuminates how rage can be the other side of compassion, how trauma can lead to forgiveness and unexpectedly open us to the humanity of others.

Indeed, anger is awesome.

Watch the scene of Moran reenacting the well-dressed woman’s outburst at the Humvee driver here.


About Martin Moran

Martin MoranMartin Moran makes his living as an actor and writer in New York City. He has appeared in many Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, including Titanic, Cabaret, Bells Are Ringing, and Floyd Collins. He won a 2004 Obie Award for his one-man play, The Tricky Part, which New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley praised for the quiet victory of "rendering chaos with this kind of clarity." Moran continues to perform The Tricky Part all over the country.