This week I went home again, sort of. I flew to Omaha, to my alma mater, Creighton University, to see their production of my short play, “Blood Harmony,” as part of their Stage of the Art Festival, focused on alumni and current students. Pictured here are the cast and director, from left to right, Sonia Keffer (Linda), Emma Rasmussen, (director), Me, Sammi Lauber (Jenny) and Patrick Dougherty (John). Sammi and Patrick are both current students. Emma is a recent alum and did a beautiful job. I have seen my work student-directed before, and have gritted my teeth and listened to my inner voice saying, “Hopefully everyone learned something in this process.” This time, that was not the case—that is to say, maybe everyone did learn something, but Emma understood the piece and brought it to a warm life. Sonia, who played the mother, actually graduated from Creighton the year I graduated from high school and she stuck around Omaha and was kind of a presence and a force while I was in my early undergrad years. She is crazy talented. In one of my early phone calls with Emma, as we talked casting, I suggested reaching out to Sonia to play Linda. As luck would have it, Emma knew Sonia from Omaha’s summer Shakespeare festival, and got her to commit.
I’m not a writer of short plays, really. I find that when I get to page ten, I’m just starting to figure out where I’m headed. A lot of times, fifty percent of those first ten pages get cut—I’ve used them to write myself into the play. When I was notified about the submission window opening for this festival, though, I thought I’d dedicate myself to crafting a moment, dawn breaking, a realization beginning to emerge. My middle child, Declan, was graduating from high school and preparing to move to Nashville to continue his education. He’s the most musical person in our family. He’s the most musical person I have ever known. I began to think about the quiet he would leave when he left, how much I would miss his noise, and I wrote the play. (And I rewrote the play and rewrote the play and rewrote the play.) It wasn’t easy, and it isn’t perfect, but I did what I set out to do.
I had a blast in Omaha. I caught up with old friends, made some new ones, put faces and bodies to facebook-only connections, hung out in a class and a rehearsal, ate and drank and felt my roots be reinvigorated. We sold out the black box every night of the festival, which allowed me to relive the pain of separating from my musical boy three nights in a row with a crowd of strangers. I learned about my family and I learned about my play.