Stage Fright!

I spend most of my time behind my computer screen. It’s a pretty safe place to hang out. During our recent ATOI Playfest performances, I found myself in a scary place–

The stage!


Fools on a raft.

My play, Tenacity, was chosen for this year’s performance (Yeah!), and we had a great cast. But, things sometimes happen with community theater, and one of our actors suddenly had two new plays to direct (as well as doing a million other things .  .  .). While we searched for a new actor, I filled in during rehearsals, and as we waited for people to make up their minds, we came to the conclusion that I could play the part.

Yeah, why not? I wrote the play and, besides, it was only ten minutes. It wasn’t like I was taking on Shakespeare.

I still panicked. Why? Well, I was working with this amazing director and two very talented actors. How could I hold up?  Everyone knows comedy is hard. I needed timing, movement, crazy facial expressions, hyperbole (okay, the last one is pretty easy for me).

And, I had to be on STAGE! Before an AUDIENCE!


In the end, I decided to let go and just dive in. Trust me, I understood Elaine. I wrote her. She’s the one who first showed up when I wrote this play.

I had loads of fun, and I don’t think I embarrassed my children too much.

Oh, and check out the reviews!

I’ve never been compared to Haruki Murakami before!




Why I Stayed, Why I Left, Why it Matters

Earlier this year I was approached to write a one act play for the Actor’s Theater of Orcas Island for a November production.

Honored with the privilege of having my play in the company of two superlative playwrights, Lin McNulty and James Wolf, I realized that 30 minutes of slapstick comedy (what I generally do for my ten minute plays) wasn’t going to work.

Armed with the theme of Homecoming, I set about doing something different.

During this time, my parents had stumbled upon an episode of the 48 Hours, which to their disbelief featured a friend’s son, a childhood friend of my brother’s.

John Wall is accused and charged with murder of his ex wife Uta, von Schwelder.

Uta’s family put up a Blog for justice:

This tragedy haunted me. Mostly, I hate to think of the children experiencing this nightmare involving their parents. The trial isn’t until next year and may or may not prove to be murder, but it did make me wonder what could drive someone to kill . . .

From this, I found a foundation of an idea.

A man, a woman, and another unusual character (you’ll have to see the play to understand).

While I worked on my play, Ray Rice’s abuse story flooded the news media. In my advanced composition course, students writing on the topic shared their stories about domestic abuse.

Others asked, “Why didn’t you just leave?”

But, it isn’t that easy.

Why I Stayed

This hashtag created by Beverly Gooden prompts many stories on Twitter.

Obligation, financial, children (or not), religion, fear, love, confusion . . .

the belief that the person abusing will change.

The thing is a relationship cannot be all good or all bad.

The places where Love/Hate Possession/Freedom Passion/Pain intersects . . . This is where bad (or good) can happen, and I chose to explore the situations where things go wrong.

Why I Left

It takes courage to leave an abusive relationship. It requires stepping off a precipice into a deep unknown. Leaving often means changing everything and having the resources and support to do so safely. Leaving can also mean creating a more dangerous situation if the abusive partner cannot let go.

Why It Matters

This month, Orcas Island hosts the Silent Witness Initiative. If you go to the Village Green in Eastsound, you will find twenty-six silhouettes of those who died from domestic violence this past year in Washington State.

Silent Witness

In the October fog, the image is reminiscent of a graveyard, a reminder of where domestic violence can lead.

In November, “Lilacs” will open with two great plays by Lin and James. For those of you on Orcas, I hope to see you.

But here’s what’s truly important:

Love should be love,

not possession,

not cruelty,

not damage, pain, injury,

Not murder.

That’s why it matters.

Picture Books and Plays

A light went on (so to speak).

A connection I hadn’t thought of before fused in an unexpected way.

In April I was at the Western Washington SCBWI Conference. I attended Justin Chanda’s session on editing picture books. Justin Chanda is the vice president and publisher of a bunch of imprints at Simon and Schuster, and he edited, among many other books, Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett’s book, Battle Bunny, a book I happen to adore.

Justin Chanda was fantastic! Not only did he hand out actual manuscripts for three great picture books (I love, love, love models to work from), but he explained how he felt editing was a lot like directing a play.

This is when I had my connection.

During the month of April I was working on “Main Course,” my short comedy I wrote for the Orcas Island Ten Minute Playfest. I attended rehearsals as a very talented director worked with actors to create life from my script.

The results were much more awesome than I even imagined. I never grow tired of the magic which transforms words on a script to a live performance.

Stage Magic with Adam and Brian
Stage Magic with Adam and Brian
Adam, Aaimee, and Brian
Adam, Aaimee, and Brian

(Photos by Michael Armenia)

When Mr. Chanda made the director/editor connection, I could totally see this. The editor, like the director, coaxes and encourages the story along. As I considered the writing versus the finished picture book, I thought, perhaps, the artist is like the actors; the ones who make the story come to life.

Suddenly I could see what I do as a playwright in relation to what I could do as a picture book writer.

Playwright, director, actors: Performance

Writer, editor, artist: Book or story.


I love it when this happens!