After a successful anti-Nazi attack, two co-conspirators meet in prison -
one free and one facing death.

Both have an urgent but opposing plea for the other.
Willem Arondeus- 40s / Man / Dutch, white / member of the Dutch resistance

Lau Mazirel- 30s / Woman / Dutch, white / Attorney


WWII, Amsterdam, Dutch resistance
Publication Anthology - 2023
“A beautiful and moving short play set in WWII Amsterdam, which I was fortunate to see performed recently. It tells a powerful story in its taut ten minutes and explores different types of silence including enforced silence and ultimately, refusal to be silent. Mabey's dialogue is so rich and these characters so vivid that we feel as if we are right there in the prison with them. Powerful and resonant with themes that still matter deeply today.”
(Jennifer O'Grady)

“We are all many things". John Mabey is many things; but for sure he is an accomplished playwright who moves us, educates us and challenges us with his work. A Tragedy of Owls is a story that needed to be told. I will hold these characters in the light and express my gratitude to John for writing about them. Read it, produce it and share their story.”
(Arianna Rose)

“WWII Amsterdam serves as a backdrop for this tragic drama "A Tragedy of Owls." John Mabey uses flowery language to great effect in telling the story of Willem and his coconspirators. It shines an interesting light on the treatment of LGBTQIA+ individuals in Nazi-occupied territories, and on the treatment of Queer people in the recording of history.”
(John Medlin)

“Heart-wrenching and important. An excellent historical piece, full of powerful imagery!”
(Evan Baughfman)

“I am fascinated with dramatizations of historical events, although A TRADGEY OF OWLS is a fictional take on a conversation in a jail, it is so palpable.
Wartime treatment of the LGBT community was abhorrent, so many similar stories come to mind (Alan Turing, for one.)
Thank you John for bringing this story to light in such an impactful way.”
(Christopher Plumridge)

“Mabey has written a tense and emotional story based on fact, that had me holding my breath throughout. Terse writing, every word counting. Reminding us of what could come down the road for all of us in the present, this play is both a historical necessity and cautionary tale. Beautifully done.”
(Bruce Karp)

“This is a vital reclamation of an important part of LGBTQ history. Even as he faces death, Willem refuses to let the truth of his love be suppressed. The courage he brought to resisting the Nazi's extends to affirming his identity. This spare, moving play brings Willem's courage into true focus and leaves us in awe of that courage.”
(Paul Donnelly)

“A spare but unsparing glimpse of heroic action, Mabey has given us a moment of history that should be better known and celebrated. To be able to stand up to such oppression is commendable, to be beaten and unbowed, to be honest in the face of erasure and lies is to inspire us all.”
(Emma Goldman-Sherman)
“I never need to be convinced to read a John Mabey play, but the subject matter hit me. Mabey has written back into history real LGBTQ prisoners during WWII, Amsterdam. Economic writing and dramatic tension from moment one, we relive only one of the hundreds or thousands of Hitler’s LGBTQ victims. Like Anne Frank, we recognize them and their helping hand, as personable losses of this heinous period. Thanks for bringing these lives back, Mr. Mabey.”
(D. Lee Miller)
“"A tiny act of courage." I know why this line jumped out to speak to me. What John Mabey describes in this short moment of finality for Willem speaks to what it was and what it took for humanity to gain a foothold against evil. The battles, be they large or small, are won through the acts of individuals who realize what it means to cradle a dying hope in your hands and then go on to the next and the next, or at the least, pass it along to those who will live on.”
(Philip Middleton Williams)
“Tragic, heroic, and beautifully told. So many stories of individuals or small groups fighting Nazi atrocities that remain largely unknown. Thank you, John Mabey, for shedding light on these particular brave souls with your unique and intelligent writing.”
(Morey Norkin)

“It takes small acts of courage to save a name from obscurity. To tell a story that needs to be heard. To restore the lost heroes to their rightful places. John Mabey has given sound to long silent voices and lets a light of truth flicker in a dark corridor of history.”
(Christopher Soucy)
“In "A Tragedy of Owls," John Mabey shows courage is shown both in grand actions and simple, yet paradoxically difficult, personal ones. This is an excellent historic play -- focusing less on events and more about their impact on people's lives.”
(Steven G. Martin)
“ABSOLUTELY devastating, powerful, and inspirational. If only all of us could be as brave as those who fight for the rights of others over their own self interests. I leave this poignant short play wanting to know more, and that is highest regard I can imagine for a playwright. BRAVO, John Mabey.”
(Debra A. Cole)

“A very powerful and moving play, demonstrating great courage in the face of certain death. Beautifully constructed and based on true historical events and lives. John Mabey pulls on our heart strings.”
(Keith Burridge)
“"Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards." John Mabey lets it be known in this wonderful short docudrama about Willem Arondeus, a gay member of the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance who paid with his life for his heroic participation in the bombing of the Amsterdam public records office and the destruction of Jewish identification records it contained. Denying his homosexual relationships might have helped save him from the firing squad, but instead he uttered his now famous last words. It still takes bravery for gays to come out. This necessary work shows us what real courage looks like.”
(Donald E. Baker)

“It only takes a few seconds for Mabey’s play to get to the line, “Even your wounds have wounds.” At that moment, I thought, okay; this one might hurt a little. And it did, in all the right ways. A Tragedy of Owls does what I think all good historical fiction does: It dramatizes real events and real people in ways that make those things personal, that erase the emotional distance of history and transform it from a chronicle of external events that happened elsewhere to others into something that makes us feel our own presence on the timeline.”
(David Beardsley)

“Mabey's tightly crafted short play brings attention to the courage of Willem Arondeus, a gay member of the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance and his final words. To quote Arthur Miller, "Attention must be paid" and this world's heroes honored. While recently produced on stage in Phoenix and London, an audio version is available at Gather By the Ghostlight:”
(Nora Louise Syran)

“A TRAGEDY OF OWLS is masterful in its economy. In John Mabey’s imagining of a forgotten moment from history, not a single word is wasted; many of his spare lines ring with multiple meanings, speaking at once to the specific and the universal, the mundane and the transcendent. This level of craft can be easily overlooked. It doesn’t call attention to itself, and that subtly itself is evidence of the playwright’s artistry. It feels as if Mabey and his play are communing with history, answering his muse’s real life plea: “let it be known.””
(Jillian Blevins)

“We produced an audio version of this script in our Season 4 line-up ( This script is a fascinating character study and John Mabey thoroughly did his part in bringing this real life event to the page. He took this historically documented moment and sculpted believable dialogue for these two characters in a remarkable way. Mabey is a master of his craft and did a wonderful job honoring Willem's plea "Let it be known".”
(Gather by the Ghost Light)

“A tour de force of a ten minute play. Mabey tenderfully and masterfully weaves what might have been said with what we know was said during the last conversation between Lau Mazirel and Willem Arondeus. If you have no idea who these people were…well, you will. This is a powerful scene of truth, sacrifice, and identity standing against the arms of unspeakable evil. I, for one, now know. And I generously thank Mabey for crafting (and sharing) these words.”
(Daniel Prillaman)

“Alright! Now it's my turn to give this piece a heartfelt recommendation. While reading "A Tragedy of Owls", I was reminded of Kosinski's "The Painted Bird", Arthur Miller's "Incident at Vichy" and Harold Pinter's "One For The Road", visions of a historical past or a dystopian "present" that, like Mr. Mabey's short play, are all too frighteningly relevent today. This is the 2nd work of John Mabey's that I have read. I'm certainly looking forward to indulging in more!”
(Ken Love)

“A phenomenal two-hander that brings to light the unheralded story of Willem Arondeus, Lau Mazirel and Sjoerd Bakker, Dutch resistance fighters who more than earned their place in world history and LGBTQ history. John Mabey does their story justice with spare staging, tight storytelling and compelling dialogue.
I had the pleasure of hearing this play on the "Gather By the Ghost Light" podcast and highly recommend both.”
(Adam Richter)
Dragon Productions Theatre Company, CA - 2022
Rainy Day Artistic Collective, WA - 2022

B3 Productions, AZ - 2023

Gather By The Ghost Light, GA - 2023

Thalia Arts Company, London UK - 2023
Thalia Arts -  photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts - photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts -  photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts - photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts -  photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts - photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts -  photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts - photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts -  photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts - photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts -  photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts - photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts -  photographer Kia Kielty
Thalia Arts - photographer Kia Kielty

Rainy Day Artistic Collective

Dragon Productions Theatre Company

Back to Top