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Like other public defenders grappling with stressful and emotionally exhausting work, Mark McGoldrick needs a way to “get the shit out.” McGoldrick’s way is to write — a habit that recently brought him from the courtroom to the theater stage. “The more I got into this work, the more all these amazing characters and stories and dramas were part of my working world,” McGoldrick said. “The other thing I find important about writing is it helps me decide what to believe about all these other troubling issues that go on around me.” Some of those beliefs might be found in “The Golden Hammer: Wounds, Booze and Forgotten Misconduct,” McGoldrick’s solo performance piece that opened at The Marsh in San Francisco on June 18. The show draws on the Alameda County, Calif., deputy public defender’s past as a drinking, pot-smoking, fighting, stealing teenager, habits that led him to being expelled from school. As McGoldrick and director David Ford tell it, “The Golden Hammer” presents the cloudy relationship between guilt and innocence, and truth and fiction, with alternating storylines. The subject matter is difficult — McGoldrick was paralyzed in a car accident before his 18th birthday — but there’s humor, too, Ford said. “It’s really smart stuff,” Ford said. “[McGoldrick] kind of takes that sympathy he has for people who are on the margins of society and he’s able to kind of translate that to talking about this work of defending them.” McGoldrick, 40, said he wanted to be a lawyer since the eighth grade, when he began developing a reputation as a smartass eager to put authority figures to the fire. He figures it’s why he loves his work. “In a strange way,” he says, “the government pays me to resist the government.”

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