Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Hate This @ Hartwick College

Last February I received a polite request from a theater arts student about the possibility of acquiring rights to perform my autobiographic monodrama I Hate This (a play without the baby).

From time to time I have received requests from high school teachers for permission to perform selected monologues from this play for dramatic competition. Even though I normally grant permission to do this I have never received word as to whether any student actually chose to use my work, in spite of my requesting to know if the work is ever actually performed. This does not surprise me. When I was in high school, I do not think this play would interest me very much, either.

And so I was intrigued when the college student in question, one Brian Cook from Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, responded when I asked that he was considering this script for his senior thesis after first finding it on Wikipedia, and then doing a bit more online research about the play before asking to read the play.

In other words, he knew what he was getting into before contacting me. Brian knew he was proposing to perform someone else's personal account of losing their first child. He was proposing that to me, he was proposing it to his advisors.

Still, I was curious. The protagonist of this work is 35 year-old man, married and somewhat settled, the story dealing with issues that I personally neither knew nor cared about when I was twenty-two. When I asked him about it, he reflected his own disinterest in most other pieces he found and considered, finding them either "too distant" or "not related" to either himself or his intended audience, or that they were simply "comedic revues."

The pitch that clinched it for me was when he said, "I remember reading that this project came to life through your journaling, right?" He then shared his design concept which involves words and paper, lots of paper. I loved it, it just sounded right.

Brian states in his bio that though he started with an emphasis in acting, through his time at Hartwick he has developed a deep passion for design, and he will be designing, performing in and directing the play.

When I asked him what if anything he has learned since his work on the production began, he used the word hope, and that sits well with me. So many ask those of us who have lost children if we're over it, if we are past our grief, if we have achieved closure. We hate this way of thinking (see: title of play) because no, we aren't. We don't, we haven't. That's not the way it works.

But hope ... hope is about the future. Hope is about moving forward, which is something we must do. Brian himself puts this very well in his director's note for the production:
This play is about a man who lost a son he would never know, but it is so much more. It is about everyone who ever lost someone, who ever wondered who or what they were, everyone who ever thought life just couldn’t get better. This play is here to reassure us all, “Yes, yes it does.”
Hartwick College presents "I Hate This (a play without the baby)" performed, designed and directed by Brian C. Cook, November 5 - 8, 2015

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