Wednesday, April 14, 2021

I Hate This: Twenty Years On

James Alexander Rankin
Every five years from the death of our first child, there is occurs a unique occasion to revisit the play I Hate This (a play without the baby)

In 2006 came a rebroadcast of the Ideastream radio adaptation. Five years after that, in 2011, Cleveland Public Theatre produced an evening featuring both solo performances I Hate This and And Then You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years), back-to-back.

In 2016, Chennelle directed me in the show at the Reinberger Auditorium, a one-night-only performance. It was a revelation, coming back to do it then, with the eyes a new director.

As the 20th anniversary approached, his 20th birthday, during COVID, I had the idea to make a film. Just using the camera in my phone, recording scenes here and there, on the fly. Some guerrilla filmmaking, as it were. Shoot some monologues in a hospital room one week, at the museum the next. And for this project I would again engage Chennelle to direct -- and employ a new actor to play me, someone age-appropriate for the person I was in 2001.

Folks have requested a film since the beginning. Hospitals much further afield (I was once contacted from the UAE) or those not interested in a live performance but who would like to use the play as a teaching tool. It had never seemed practical before, but now I thought I'd just make one.

I had only just gotten in touch with Chennelle about this video project when I was contacted by Daniel Hahn at Playhouse Square. They have been offering online productions since the beginning of the pandemic, and were looking to create something original. Would I have any interest in their producing a video recording of I Hate This?

I do not believe that anything happens for a reason. But they do happen.

Chennelle Bryant-Harris
Last week we had a couple nights in the space, to rehearse. It was a blessing. Rehearsing in-person for the first time in thirteen months.

James Rankin will perform. Listening to him read it, I had forgotten how it builds. I lived inside of it for so long, I just haven't thought of the writing.

Chennelle had requested I redraft it as a screenplay, which was very helpful for everyone involved. In doing so, I changed a few words or phrases here or there, to adapt it for another voice to speak. But James has already acquainted himself with the script, and asked to change some back.

I have cut a variety of passages since the first performance, eighteen years ago. Some of them for the better, but I wonder. I am glad for the opportunity to wonder.  

Our cinematographer, Ananias Dixon, has already become something of a co-director, or perhaps a co-conspirator. It was a joy to watch him and Chennelle jump out of their seats to swirl around James, collaborating to negotiate how the camera is going to swim and move around James, to be his confidant in this story. It will not be a static recording of a stage play. There will be magic.

Playhouse Square plans to premiere "I Hate This (a play without the baby)" in Summer 2021. Details to come.


  1. I love this post! When I looked at the date I had to do a double-take, as it's been nearly a month since it was written. Looking forward to seeing the magic realized.