Friday, July 15, 2011

World Premiere Six Years Ago

It was six years ago tonight that I walked into the Cultural Center in downtown Chicago anticipating what at that point was a crowning achievement for my writing. On Friday, July 15, 2005, the Cultural Center was home to Prop THTR's New Play Fest. My autobiographical theater piece, In the Dark, was receiving its world premiere staged reading for a paying public. In August of 2004, Gary Mills had suggested I write this play, but I was not too sure about it. Sure, I had a fun story of high school highlights and college successes, but beyond sharing my thoughts on what it was like to lose my eyesight over night when I was fourteen years old, what could I share with an audience which would keep them intrigued in my writing, story, and acting? I resisted the idea, but after about an hour, I agreed to give it a shot. By the spring of 2005, I had written a first draft. then Gary sent me an email that Prop THTR was in search of new unproduced pieces and he had mentioned my play to people at the theater group who were expecting a copy from me. I did not feel it was ready for submission. Gary agreed, but insisted that the only way I could grow was to send it out and get a response from a company. I did. In june, I received a letter from Emily Lotspeich congratulating me on having a story which needed to be shared. Not only had my piece been selected to be a part of the festival, but Emily would direct it. She put together a cast and I met with them. We read over the script and I went home to work on some rewrites. It was Tuesday night July 12. Only a few days from the first of two readings my play would receive. Upon returning home, I noticed I had a voicemail from my friend, Rani. I called her back and left a message. It was about 10:15p.m. I was tired, but figured I would at least read through my play once more and possibly make some minor changes until Rani would call me back. I started to read. Before long, I was making major changes. I was finding ways to improve the piece. I looked up and saw it was midnight. I was feeling a bit more energized so I kept reading and rewriting. Before I knew it, the clock said it was 3:00a.m. I was flying now. I kept editing until 7a.m. I went to bed and woke up at 10a.m. Immediately, I started up on the script. I implemented changes suggested by Emily and the cast. I also found other areas which I wanted to improve. I spent all day writing until about 5p.m. when I went to rehearsal again. On Thursday morning, I tweaked some more and was finally ready for the world premiere presentation.

I was feeling confident when I arrived two hours before show time. I walked through the lobby and the person into whom I first ran was Rani. She was there and extremely excited to check out this piece. Hearing her excitement only served to energize me even more. It also served as a eye opening moment. Wow! She is hear. This is real! Pretty soon other family and friends would be here too. To write my life story, I had to write about my family and friends so how would they react? When the show began, I was a little disappointed that the place was only half filled. After the show, Gary came up and said it was a successful night as in this one evening the theater had made more money than the entire festival run of the previous year. I was thrilled that my words were being spoken by professional actors and that people had paid to witness my work on display. I was happiest that my parents, one of my sisters and her husband, my lawyer buddy, my best friend's mother, and rani were present. There were other folks there too, but I did not know them. I was proud that whenever I would reflect on the very first time any of my pieces were presented to a paying public, I would always list those deared loved ones which are meaningful in my life. Having those individuals there is why the experience was so special! Then Sunday came along which was the day of the second reading and it was so special to have artists, familys, and friends from all aspects of my life present as the place was packed wall-to-wall and people had to stand along the walls due to an overabundance of people. How thrilling that was to hear such thunderous reactions to various moments of my show. That too was a moving experience for many reasons. As always though, that first one is the most memorable. Six years ago tonight. How fascinating my life is as a result of that moment.

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