Monday, December 1, 2014

A Little Night Music

In August 1994, when I was living and working in Petoskey, Michigan, I received a phone call from Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood asking me if I would write a short play for their Troupe Teen Theatre group for World AIDS Day 1994. The troupe, made up of local high school students, would perform the play on World AIDS Day and then take it on the road to high schools around northern Michigan. The theme was AIDS education and awareness. I replied, “Sure,” and promptly forgot about it.

At the end of October, I received another phone call from the troupe’s director, telling me that the first rehearsal would be the next afternoon and that the troupe was really looking forward to reading the play. I gulped, got the time of the rehearsal, and booted up my reliable old Apple IIc. Within an hour I batted out a twenty-page manuscript, proofed it, and ran to the copy center next door.

I have a reputation in my writing – deserved or otherwise – for being able to get it right the first time. I got through college and both grad schools turning in first drafts, and the only research paper I remember doing in more than one draft was my doctoral thesis. This play, which I titled Here’s Hoping, was the same. The kids read it the next day and loved it, and other than some minor changes for scientific accuracy, the play went on pretty much as I wrote it that October afternoon.

It’s the story of an AIDS support group meeting in a church basement, not unlike an Al-Anon meeting (with which I had recent experience at the time). All of the participants are supporting AIDS victims, including a college student with an HIV-positive boyfriend, a young couple with a child infected by a blood transfusion, and a widow of AIDS. Into this mix comes a straight-laced couple pushed into the group by the illness of a son they cast out several years ago. The group meets their challenge and their needs.

All of the people in the group are based on people I knew – and still know. Some are gone, but most are still with us. The play is dedicated to them and their memories.

That was twenty years ago today.  The play was well-received, and, as far as I know, the Troupe Teen Theatre is still using it. I gave them permission to use the play for as long as they want to without paying royalties. Ironically, it’s the only play of mine that is in regular production, but it’s the least I could do.

This song played in the background as the curtain came down.

3 barks and woofs on “A Little Night Music

  1. Hey, Mustang Bobby! I always enjoy your comments ay Balloon Juice and I used to read you at Shakesville, so I decided to pop over here to visit.

    Congratulations on writing a piece that has withstood the passing of time and one that helps people in an ongoing manner. It would not have lasted if it wasn’t good, so Bravo!

    The way you went about it is shockingly similar to a project I agreed to a couple of years ago. I make fine art hooked wool rugs and teach my techniques all over the country. I was at a big rug hooking event and one of the other artists told me she was writing an article about how color evokes emotion and asked if I would hook a rug for the article and exhibit. I said, “Sure,” thinking it would be a dinky 8 by 10 mat that I could knock out in a couple of days.

    Like you, I promptly forgot about it and like you, I got a message a few months later asking for a photo of the piece, as well as the written material that was to accompany it. *blank stare*

    So I rummage theough my files, find the original agreement, and realize the rug and written material is due in less than a month. The only prep I had was knowing I was going to use the color blue.

    I emailed her immediately and told her I didn’t have photos of it yet (not a lie!) and sat down and drew up a pattern, which had to be 18” by 26”, a good sized piece! I spent one day dyeing the wool and thr next day busily hooking like a crazy woman. It took three weeks to finish, but I was only two days past the deadline, and it was a soft deadline anyway. Another artist didn’t even have hers finished by the time of the exhibit!

    So, like you, putting something together under pressure can still have a good result. Isn’t it good to know that we can jolt those creative juices and go?

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