Macht Frei


Justin Aaron Halle



Veering between Dachau concentration camp in 1943 and New York City’s Upper East Side in 2020, Macht Frei is a short play that explores the blood memory of inherited Jewish trauma, intergenerational disconnect, and all the things history has failed to teach us—despite its violent insistence on repeating itself.




Justin Aaron Halle (he/they) is a New York-based performer, playwright and professional pansy. Justin has performed at venues including La MaMa, the Bowery Electric, and Joe’s Pub. Justin’s playwriting has been performed off-Broadway at the Red Bull Theater, and off-West End at London’s Jermyn Street Theater. Justin’s short play, Delaware, Come Home,” is featured in the “Best of Red Bull Theater’s Short New Play Festival” collection and their play “Cowgirl” was recently named a finalist for the [email protected] New Play Reading Series. Justin is obsessed with all things queer, Jewish, and strange. In their free time, Justin loves throwing extravagant little fits on the internet and deleting them shortly after. Justin received their BFA at NYU Tisch’s Experimental Theater Wing and is currently pursuing their MFA in Playwriting at Columbia University.



1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?


I started writing plays in undergrad when, as an actor, I suspected I could make theater more exciting, more daring, more THEATRICAL and STRANGE and CHALLENGING than the plays for which I’d been auditioning. I love going to the theater and hearing stories from voices not usually amplified; I love having my reality turned absolutely upside-down, and I wish to share that experience.


2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?


I wrote the first draft of Macht Frei in a workshop taught by the divine Robert O’Hara. The piece was specifically inspired by artist Kara Walker and how her work wrestles with history and identity in a meaningful but often ugly way. She’s not afraid to confront violence and stereotype in an effort to better understand herself, and in Macht Frei, I attempt to do just that. I wanted to explore the troubling discrepancies between the “Tikkun Olam” Judaism on which I’d been raised, and the appalling “look the other way” approach so many of my Jewish peers and relatives take regarding the current apartheid state called Israel.


3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?


Ostentatious, naughty, empathetic, hallucinatory, and…hm…gay-as-hell (that’s one word)!


4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?


Drag queens (fabulous, breathtaking), cult leaders (terrifying, fascinating), my Queer chosen-family (identity-affirming), my Jewish not-chosen-family (crazy-making).


5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?


I’ve summited Everest twice. No, just kidding. I’m deaf in one ear.


6. What are some of your favorite plays?


Maria Irene Fornes’s Fefu and Her Friends, Nicky Silver’s Fat Men in Skirts, what a terribly difficult question, the list changes every damn day.


7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?


Oh god, shameless plugs?!? Well, please check out my website, New Play Exchange and social media pages to keep abreast of my insanity and any upcoming projects. Also, my straight brother Ben is recently single, so if any ladies are looking for a Nice Jewish Boy…