Saturday, April 9, 2016

I Hate This: Fifteen Years On

Don't you think I'm looking older?
As the new year began, I was struck by all the unique milestones, personal and public, that lay in our way in 2016. My daughter was to become a teenager. Shakespeare’s First Folio would be visiting Cleveland (and all those Republicans.) We would elect a new president.

I was also aware that our first child, stillborn in 2001, would turn fifteen. On the tenth anniversary of the events described in my solo performance, I Hate This, that play and a companion piece were produced at Cleveland Public Theatre. It was rewarding to expand upon the play in that way, and have the opportunity to widen the scope of what stories I could tell in a single evening.

For this birthday, however, I wanted to reconnect with I Hate This on its own. But how best to proceed? I considered intimate, private performances, maybe even hosted in my own house, or someone else’s house. Maybe a string of them, a series of appearances for an audience of ten at a time. Perhaps one day I will still attempt that.

I was actually about the abandon the idea. We were putting together The Secret Adversary tour, and soon I would need to begin rehearsals for a forty-minute abridgment of Twelfth Night we will be presenting as part of the First Folio proceedings. It just wasn’t the right time, you know? You can always tell yourself it isn’t the right time.

Then two things happened. First, my father died, and life itself took on a startling new dimension for me. Preparing a memorial service, physical contact with a deceased and beloved family member, making decisions you never imagined you would be called upon to make ... so much that had been buried into the past returned to the surface.

And shortly following that, I was accepted into the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, which I greatly wished to attend, but scarcely had the money to pay for. It made perfect sense to accomplish two goals at once, raise funds in exchange for which I would offer an entirely relevant premium -- my work. I would remount this play, with purposeful intent.

We have put together a production team, with Josh Brown adapting the multimedia he created for the CPT production (2011) and we will be including Dennis Yurich’s original score from 2003, which is now appropriately period.

Most significantly, I have asked Chennelle Bryant-Harris to re-stage the work. She has worked three seasons as an actor-teacher in the residency program, and we collaborated as co-directors for the Love In Pieces project two years ago. She is a talented, young director who will bring a fresh perspective to the work. Significantly, I suggest, for at least one important reason - unlike my previous collaborators, she wasn’t there. She did not know me then. Her experience is based entirely by what I set on the page, and so my words have to do much more work.

During the past two years I have watched with fascination as two other men have taken on the role, John Dayton and Brian Cook. Their interpretations gave me an opportunity to think of the text in new ways, have liberated me from thinking there was one way to perform this show. It’s my show, to be sure, but I was locked into a delivery, a certain cadence and choreography, which was established almost from the first reading in August, 2002.

When I polled friends on Facebook as to whether anyone would care to see either this play or And Then You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years) again, Brian P. commented, “I'd be more interested to see how time and the vicissitudes of life has affected your approach to (I Hate This).”

So would I, Brian. So would I.

Click here to visit my GoFundMe page and make a donation and reserve your seat to see "I Hate This" on May 7!

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