28 JUNE 2014
I arrived in Chicago late last night, and Ann picked me up at the airport -- Ann Filmer, artistic director of 16th Street Theater in Berwyn. I'm here because I wrote a play, and because Ann is producing it. The play is called THE GUN SHOW.
I will be here all month, participating in not only the rehearsals, with my director and actor, but also in the show itself. It's a "one-man, two-person show," in its current iteration at least. That's how I've been describing it, anyway. The actor plays me, and once in a while he talks to me. I'm all over this one. Part of the story in a way that I've never been part of the story before. Tangled up in blue, to borrow a phrase.
The play is about guns.
This is its first production. I've been working on it for about a year and a half, and it's new and raw. Part conversation about guns and gun control and part stories about guns, pulled from my own experiences.
I grew up in rural Oregon, on a farm, and we had guns. Not a lot, not a stockpile, not for show, not for machismo. They were a tool, to be used to kill creatures that were preying on the chickens, if creatures happened to be preying on the chickens, or to defend ourselves if we needed to. Because we were far from things like civilization and law enforcement. Not super far. But far enough. Everybody had guns, and dogs, and fences. Most everybody out there still does.
I didn't stay in the country, and I didn't stay a kid. As I moved out into the world, my thoughts about guns became more complicated. My experiences with guns became more complicated.
I've waited a long time to tell this story. Which is the wrong way to put it, because I never thought I'd ever tell this story.
Things collide. That's part of it. It's impossible to NOT think about guns right now. Right? There's one story after another in the newspaper lately, and the debate is hot and emotional and immediate. All this public story crashed against my own personal stories, and when you're a writer, there really are moments when you HAVE TO write. Fish or cut bait. Grow or die.
I saw a friend recently, who I hadn't seen for a while, and she asked how I was, and how the play was going… the usual questions. I would usually say "fine, how are you?" automatically, automatically, automatically. Like a math equation that I knew the correct answer to. But this time, I didn't say fine. "Good," I said. "Strange. Like a snake shedding its skin. Ugly and patchy and vulnerable."
She's a writer too, so I think she understood. She patted my arm reassuringly.
I don't know how this is going to go.
Rehearsals begin tomorrow. We'll see.