Saturday, September 24, 2022

Process LXX

“I feel stupid and contagious.”

Why didn’t anyone tell me Covid was difficult to live with? I am currently reading several books at once, which is good, I’m not usually good at that. The deadlines are coming and they will be constant, from one week to the next.

Did you know ..? The 1927 film Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, was adapted from a novel written by Thea von Harbou. It was first serialized and then collated into a book in 1925, though it was always meant to be the source material for the eventual film. This is one of the books I am currently reading.

I’ve been in love with the film since Giorgio Moroder released an abridged version with contemporary score in 1984. Some of the music is dated, very, very dated. Would not recommend someone watch this version for their first time. However, it is because of this version that I know and love this film, so I am very glad it existed, and when it did.

Moroder’s own compositions, however, are still entirely appropriate, most significantly the "Machines" theme.

One of the amazing things about early science fiction is that It does not, in fact, cannot rely on words or phrases we all know which act as a shortcut to our imagination. The word “spacecraft” automatically creates in the mind a picture, one of a self-contained vessel, most likely resembling in shape a nautical ship, set against a black sky festooned with stars.

So much of our modern storytelling is derivative in this way. Those who pioneered the craft of science fiction had their own images to work from, but quite often they were creating brand new images for the imagination, some of which can be quite confounding. Von Harbou’s novel for Metropolis is at times incomprehensible, at least upon first pass. I find myself going over passages a few times to make sure I am picturing what she intended.

This week has been very challenging, as I have been coping with the lingering effects of Covid, and also felt somewhat overwhelmed by all the assignments and responsibilities.

But wait – I had previously been lamenting my lack of deadlines, assignments and responsibilities. I just needed to remind myself how much I have been loving this. Grad school has given me life.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Process LXIX

“I still had all the afternoons in the world.” 
― Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That (1967)

This week I was introduced to the quote above, from Didion's legendary farewell to New York, or perhaps really to her twenties, and I have never imagined a more accurate turn of phrase to describe how one feels to be in their twenties.

After an unexpected interruption both of my classes are in progress and I no longer have any spare time, which is fine. I can just go back to saying no to everything.

Of course, it also helps if you have contracted Covid, which I have. Lucky me, it’s not as bad as I feared it might be. I cough, nights are difficult, I am achy and I wake a lot.

Monday night I was able to attend my first playwright’s workshop via speakerphone. The professor is really cool, he said he could run it all by me when I felt better, but like I said, there’s an awful lot to do and I’d rather not get behind on anything.

Without going into much detail, I am going to be able to use techniques from my creative nonfiction class on my first project in workshop. The man said I have to write a play that saves the world ― and go. I have a lot of people to talk to now to figure out how to do that.

Meanwhile, I am having a serious crisis of faith. This is compounded by my illness, and by the antihistamine I have been ingesting daily to quell my symptoms, and also the cavalcade of minor tragedies and disappointments which have befallen as a result of said illness.

I have had eye surgery, now Covid. I have been made despondent by weakness and dis-ability. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

This morning the wife and I watched Griffin Dunne's tribute to his aunt, the Joan Didion documentary The Center Will Not Hold. Last week I only knew her by reputation, now I have read a little of her work, seen her life, and fallen in love. I also have no excuse not to move forward, still.
“I don't know what I think until I write it down.” 
― Joan Didion

Monday, September 12, 2022

State of Siege (2003)

Drew Narten, Mindy Childress
(Bad Epitaph Theater Co., 2003)
Photo: Anthony Gray
Sunday night, I noticed I had a tickle in my throat. By bedtime, I was coughing. I decided to wait until morning to self-test, and all night I was achy and woke countless times. I obsessed about taking the test, and what the result would be. At six I took the test, which turned immediately positive. I have Covid.

By the middle of Monday morning I was weak and achy. I tried to sleep in, but was obsessing about my job, about the residency, the lesson plans I needed to teach – and how many actor-teachers may also have Covid. As the morning progressed, the news was largely positive, in that they were not positive.

I never imagined I was invulnerable, I never thought I was immune, I thought I might be immune, because who knows? In those apocalyptic plague stories there’s always a small percentage that never contracts the disease.

In 2003, Bad Epitaph emerged from hiatus with a production of Albert Camus’ State of Siege (1948) which he had adapted from his own novel, The Plague.

The play is a fable about a bad omen in the form of a comet over Cadiz, Spain, and how the people’s collective fear paves the way for a man named The Plague to assume the reins of power. It is the apocryphal quote from Ben Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” made manifest.

Drew Narten, Nick Koesters, Christine Castro
(Bad Epitaph Theater Co., 2003)
Photo: Tim Safranek
Bad Epitaph Producing Director Tom Cullinan chose to produce this piece because (1) he had long wanted to and (2) it was a response to the Patriot Act, when Americans openly encouraged the government to strip away at our civil liberties in the “war against terrorism.”

“Cullinan imbues the production with sinewy style and imaginative staging,” said Cleveland Scene theater critic Christine Howey. “All the actors wear half-masks, in commedia dell’arte style, which gives this parable a heightened sense of symbolism.”

Traditionally, anti-fascist plays such as this one are resolved when the people come together as one, eschew their fear, and cast out the authoritarian. Unfortunately, if this was ever something that happened in the United States, it does no longer.

For twenty-one years we have lived in a perpetual state of crisis, and the authoritarians are still winning, through division and fear, which has never been so evident as during the current pandemic.

Because we are still in a  pandemic. If you have any doubt, come on over and I will breathe on you. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Guerrilla Theater Company: Thirty Years On

Guerrillas in the Professor Street Theater
Now we are here. Now it is time. Now we have come to rule you.

Dusk in Tremont. A tortured dog, a coat hanger wrapped around the base of his matted, entangled tail, ran down Professor, yowling in pain, followed by two or three other mutts. 

The dog stopped every few yards to turn around to snap at the metal dragging the ground, an entirely useless attempt, the coat hanger whipping around with it. The other dogs yapped in delight and surprise, also trying to bite at the wire hanger.

The seven of us emerged from the building for which Torque and I had recently signed a lease, the building we would soon call the Professor Street Theatre. We were going to rehearse one of our new short plays outdoors. I was anxious.

“Let’s do it over there,” Torque said, gesturing down the street with a mallet, toward the steps of St. John Cantius. Torque was wearing a bass drum, Wee-Bear had a pair of cymbals.

“Uhm,” I said. “Okay.”

We walked over to the church. I stood at the top of the steps, with Torque and Wee-Bear a few steps below, flanking me. The others stood around, scattered here and there, on the sidewalk, in the street, like they would do if they were standing among the crowd at the corner of Euclid Heights Boulevard and Coventry, or the Yard as it was called. The way we were going to do, there, in a little over an hour.

Torque beat out one loud rhythm on his drum, Wee-Bear a different one on her cymbals. And I began our first ever play, calling out into the darkness.

The view from the steps of St. John Cantius was not a particularly interesting one. It faced a vacant lot. There was a huge, grassy lot between our building and the boarded up delicatessen on the corner, where there were once three other buildings. You could see where the buildings had been because the land sagged in the middle. None of us ever walked across this lot for fear of popping into the ground and never being seen again.

I was shouting at a vacant lot. An abandoned storefront. The empty street. A Tremonster, just out for a walk. I felt like an idiot, calling into the night air. And if I felt stupid here, how would I feel an hour later, in front of actual people, in Cleveland Heights?

Earlier that day we had sent faxes to all the major news outlets -- Channels 3, 5 and 8, as well as the daily newspaper, the Plain Dealer -- announcing that Guerrilla Theater Company would be staging a “Hit on Coventry” at 10:30 PM that night, Thursday, September 10, 1992.

We had never performed in public before. We were still creating the show which we planned to open in late October. No one knew who we were. This was the reason we were doing this stunt, to announce our arrival. So all would know our name. 

Steps of St. John Cantius at night.
When no one called the office number (the one we called the Guerrilla Connection) for more information, we called them.

WKYC couldn’t find the release, and didn’t know what we were talking about. Ditto WJW and the Plain Dealer.

The guy at WEWS, when we pressed him as to whether or not we would get covered, asked smartly, “Do you believe your little stunt would be of any interest to 10,000 people?” We were unable to convince him that it would.

Screw it. We traveled in two cars out to Coventry Village, a fifteen minute drive from Tremont, and began the assault.

Coventry Yard was bustling, the tables were full of folks enjoying coffee from Arabica. Guitars were being plucked. Beemer and Jelly Jam wandered in from Coventry Road, and moved among the throng, passing out cryptic little flyers with the Guerrilla Logo on it, and the number for the Guerrilla Connection.

We had two phone lines, one for regular office use, and a second, the Guerrilla Connection, with a funny answering machine message on it that we promised to change once a week to encourage people to call back.

Mammy and Retro approached from Euclid Heights Boulevard, passing out these same flyers. The four of them mingled amongst the folks sitting out in the Yard, enjoying the last of the late summer weather.

Torque, Wee-Bear and I waited in the car.

“Do you see any cameras or anything?”


“Well, forget it, let’s just do this.”

We strode in lock-step, I at point, my long, black, cotton jacket whipping behind me. Torque and Wee-Bear were at my corners with their instruments. Once into the Yard, I hopped up onto the topmost step of the long cement bankment and turned to face the crowd.

There may have been fifty people spread out around the patio, chatting, playing hacky-sack. Standing up there, aware of what I was about to do, I felt very tall indeed, and far from everyone but dreadfully exposed. I felt vertiginous.

Before I could think too hard, however, Torque and Wee-Bear were in their places, just below me, as we had rehearsed, and beating out their rhythms very, very loud. I had expected such an arrival to create a great hush amidst the throng, but I was mistaken. They looked up in surprise, but their response was louder than the normal cacophony of a crowd of voices. Some laughed, some said “What the hell?” I waited not an instant.

“I am here,” I said, loudly. Now they got a little quiet.

“I am here!” I repeated, as though I had not gotten the response I wanted. There were giggles.

“So what?” someone called back.

“Who are you?” Mammy, sitting at a table, called back to me.

“Yeah, who the fuck are you?” someone else said.

“I have come to lead you!” I yelled.

“Why should we follow you?” Jelly Jam said, standing close by, looking up at me.

“Because I know what's good for you,” I said, pointing at him. By now no one was heckling, some still laughed, but they were listening. It was a show!

“You know what's good for us?” Beemer and Retro said together.

“I have a plan to end the bad times we are currently suffering and start anew the good times we all remember,” I said.

“Where have you been?” said all four crowd-member Guerrillas. Torque and Wee-Bear stood silently at attention below me.

“I have been living life as one of you, making mistakes, achieving great victories, and now I am here,” I said. “Now it is time. Now I have come to rule you.”

“I’ll vote for you!” someone called out.

“Tell us more!” said the Guerrillas. They were slowly stepping towards me, through the Yard.

“The people who rule you now don't care about you!” I shouted. “I care about you!”

“You care about us!” they cried in disbelief.

“The people who rule you don't know how to make things better! But I know how to make things better!”

“Make things better!” they wept.

“Yes! I can make things better! And I need your help!” I said.

“What can we do?”

“I need your support!”

“We support you!”

“I need your money!”

“Take our money!”

“I need your trust! I need your love!”

“We trust you! We love you!”

Anchorman Ted
“And …” I said, looking down at them all, my hands outstretched “... I need you to love each other!”

They all stopped in their tracks and looked at each other. The crowd of strangers in the Yard waited for what happened next.

“Kill him,” they all agreed. Torque, Wee-Bear and I looked shocked and scared.

“Kill him!” they yelled again, and lunged for us, but we had turned around and were sprinting through the shrubs and bushes that blocked the way behind us. We tore through the traffic across Euclid Hts. Boulevard as Jelly Jam, Mammy, Beemer and Retro took after us, shouting with hate.

Who knows what happened at the Yard, we were too full of the notion that maybe we were being pursued, that perhaps our actions were somehow illegal, which they weren’t, but that maybe cops would try to stop us or something.

In any case, we jumped in our cars, and took off, back to Tremont.

We were putting things away at the building when my fiancée called.

“Turn on Channel 5,” she said.

“What? Why?”

“No time!”

So we all gathered in the sitting room and switched on the TV, and there was Anchorman Ted.

“From the strange to the bizarre,” said Anchorman Ted, “Impromptu theater took on new meaning tonight in town when a group of actors paid a very unannounced visit to the Arabica coffee shop on Coventry!”

The image on the screen switched to that of Torque, Wee-Bear and myself, striding past the Centrum movie theater towards the Yard.

“Oh my God!” Wee-Bear said.

“Can you qualify how ‘unannounced’ something is?” Mammy asked.

Anchorman Ted continued, “Happened around 10:30 tonight, the performers rushed into the restaurant, surprising absolutely all the patrons there …”

“We didn’t go inside!” Beemer said, squinting.

“Say our name!” Torque said.

“... they put on a short performance, then they rushed out again.”

The image switched abruptly to our running away from the scene, Wee-Bear clanging her cymbals, all of us dodging traffic.

“They missed the performance,” I sighed.

“Now from what we’ve been told,” Ted said, “troupes of actors in New York City have been staging similar performances like this one. No harm done, really, but it certainly comes as a surprise to those who see it happen.”

“Similar performances like this one?” Mammy said.

“Say the name!” Torque said.

“I wonder how our cameraperson found out it was going to happen?” Ted asked as the picture switched back to three happy TV people on the set -- Ted, Don the Weatherman and their newest arrival, Evelyn.

“Because we sent you a fucking press release?” I said.

“He’s sharp,” said Evelyn, the new female anchor, and significantly younger than Ted or Don. “Maybe Don is going to surprise us with some nice weather this weekend,” she said, making the perfect segue.

“You haven’t been around long enough to know,” cried the ancient meteorologist (he was fifty-four). “Only on Coventry!”

“Is that right?” she asked, appropriately interested.

“Uh yes,” Ted added, with fatherly insight, “Home of the strange and the unusual for over three decades now.”

“Ha ha ha.”

“Heh heh heh.”

“Anyway!” Don said, facing camera two.


“They didn’t say our name.”

Friday, September 9, 2022

Process LXVIII

GooGoo Cluster (w/dirty fingernail)
At first thought, it is easy to say, “Wow, I can’t believe I am on my final year of grad school!” As if no time has passed at all. Of course, that is ridiculous. Things have changed so much. Fall 2020 we were in the middle of a quarantine.

I did not see some friends in person for a year or more. All interaction was online. That included work and school. And school for my children, both of whom still lived here; the eldest now commencing their second year at university.

All classes were online. My family was very accommodating to my new homework schedule, which involved reading and writing pretty much every night and all weekend. These work hours are still necessary, only complicated by rehearsals downtown, classes an hour’s drive away, and family-related engagements that did not exist two years ago.

We have, all of us, been through so much. We’re still going through it, too.

Last night was a wake up call to me, a sign of what is at stake in this final class I may ever take in a university setting, my final class in craft and theory. And C&T has always been my Achilles’ heel, as it is about the craft, not the subject. I hope I can stay focused on craft (i.e., how it is done) rather than focusing so narrowly on the subject, though the argument that the craft serves is also relevant.

But I so easily digress.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Pandemonium 22

In rehearsal with
James Rankin & Sarah Blubaugh
The past year we have been digging deeper in the dirt of our subconscious.

Both in-class writing exercises and writing assignments have yielded some remarkable results. The Ocean Breathes Salty, a ten-minute play presented at the 2022 NEOMFA Playwrights Festival was the end result of a homework assignment. An in-class assignment yielded my contribution to Cleveland Public Theatre’s Pandemonium 2022, Here’s To You, Mrs. Robinson.

Yes, so many of my plays feature titles or lyrics from popular songs. And I think that’s cool.

In brief, this short play is the story of two young adults who meet by a neighborhood creek to get high. Rehearsing this scene with performers James Rankin and Sarah Blubaugh has been a joy, and I am really looking forward to learning how it plays in the space we have been assigned at the party.

Our performance space is a shipping container, an honest-to-goodness corrugated metal shipping container. It’s not an open space, but it’s not a secluded space. There will be bands nearby and lots of folks coming and going. And yet, we have crafted an intimate two-person piece about transgression and acceptance. Kink and communication. It is a bit raunchy and full of joy.

The theme for the party this year is “doors of imagination” so I thought it only appropriate to pitch a piece I had written about opening those passageways to desire that we would otherwise choose to keep entirely sealed.

This week we get our technical rehearsal in the shipping container. Huh. I think we will give a whole new meaning to the term shipping container. GET IT?

Cleveland Public Theatre presents PANDEMONIUM: THE DOORS OF IMAGINATION this Saturday, September 10, 2022.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Process LXVII

"Some craven scruple of thinking too precisely on the event."
- HAM IV.iv
My concentration is greater in the morning than the evening (whether or not I have been drinking) but time is short. That could be part of it. This week we had a 200 page text and I was constantly distracting myself.

"Why not skim?" she asks. Because I’m not good at it. Because I like to read, not process, information. And because my eyes, I guess.

But also! This particular text is a guide to creative nonfiction. And I realized I spent a lot of time ruminating over a potential subject for my paper and had to go back over the same paragraph several times.

Recently I dug up an archive video of the Cleveland Public Theatre workshop production of my solo performance And Then You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years). It's not the best video, but the sound is all right, and it was good enough to get us into the New York Fringe in 2009.

I forgot how funny it was. This scene is about when I was twelve and had a crush on a character from the animated film Animalympics. I also forgot how much of this play is about my sexual interests. I have come to the realization that writing and performing this play was my midlife crisis.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Process LXVI

Stop Making Sense
Interviewer: What are you going to do next?
David Byrne: A project with songs based on true stories from tabloid newspapers. It's like “60 Minutes” on acid.
Break’s over, back on your heads.

Last year, I regretted (only slightly) taking a summer course because I didn’t appreciate the idea of sixteen weeks of work crammed into six. But my, did I enjoy the time off once that was through.

Having the entire season without any classes, however, I feel mentally out of shape. No reading, no writing -- and that was before my eye procedure. But the days pass as days will and ready or not, school is here and the time is right for dancing in the sheets (of paper).

Fortunately, the last of the gas bubble which was put into my eye (to assist healing) disappeared the same day as the plastic medal band on my wrist, the one warning EMTs not to administer N₂O or to put me on a plane, finally cracked and fell off. Reading was suddenly easier, driving possible. I began running again.

Thursday night the semester began as I drove to Akron for my first class in a course on creative non-fiction. In spite of having autobiographical plays, these did not involve research. I wrote what I thought, from my own point of view. This is not creative fiction. Memoir, perhaps. Not the same thing.

Girlfriend Is Better
Shortly after obtaining an Apple Macintosh SE in 1990, I did what all callow young men do shortly before graduating college, I started to write the Great American Novel. That fall I drank 100 proof Southern Comfort, smoked cigarettes, and banged out my first book.

It was a recollection of a solo road trip I had taken the previous year, when I visited a former girlfriend with whom my relationship was undefined, and also to see my dying grandfather. Heady stuff. Great potential. Unfortunately, it read like a journal, not a novel, and the horrible truth was I wasn’t terribly interested in anything that was going on around me.

I was twenty years old. I was traveling through the deep South, to first reach Panama City, Florida, then onto Clearwater. And yet, I took the interstate, and not any two-lane roads. I ate at chain restaurants in service plazas instead of seeking local cooking. My erstwhile girlfriend was seeing one guy, and had her eyes on another (who would become her life partner) and I was a dull interloper.

When I did visit my grandfather, it was for one long afternoon in which neither of us said very much at all. He was in great pain, and I was terrified of that and of him. It was a pilgrimage I felt I ought to make, though I did not know why.

Road To Nowhere
Most of the narrative included my referring to other, better books, like Blue Highways, Still Life With Woodpecker, even Anne Rice’s Belinda. I quoted song lyrics which weren’t epigrams so much as hopefully evocative phrases taking the place of any original sentiment I was unable to have or create.

Basically, because it happened to me, I thought it was important for others to know about. I guess I’ve always thought that. I like to think I’ve gotten better at deciding which tales to tell, and how to tell them.

So, anyway, we’re not doing that this semester. This time, we’re telling other people’s stories. True stories.

Friday, August 26, 2022

I Hate This (First Reading, 2002)

Twenty years ago today, August 26, 2002, we held the first public reading of I Hate This (a play without the baby).

To recap, my wife and I suffered a stillbirth in early 2001. And I wrote about it. And wrote about it. My journal was a form of solace and understanding. We mourned, we talked, we traveled. We wanted things to stand still for a while but they kept moving forward.

My wife had a show in the New York Fringe that August and I saw a lot of shows, many of them solo performances. As I drove a van of sleeping teenagers and young adults back to Cleveland I had a lot of time to think and I realized then that I was going to write a show about this experience.

It had only been five months. I told myself to wait, not to think about it again at least until the new year. The wife had invited me to join her writers’ group which met at that coffee shop in University Circle. In 2002 I began to share pages for what would become my first solo performance.

Early that summer I met for lunch with Joyce Casey, Artistic Director of Dobama Theatre. As I had worked there for three years she was my former employer and mentor, and also a good friend. I had shared the script with her and she asked how she could help with the piece and I said I wanted to hold a reading, an invitation-only event and could I use the space. She agreed.

This was something I had never done before. I hadn’t actually written many plays. I’d never had a public-private showcase of a work I had just written. Maybe a few folks invited over to my house to read and comment. I planned to invite a wide variety of people, friends and close artistic colleagues, but also directors of other theater companies and most importantly to extend an invitation to those we had met on our journey, others who had lost children and were familiar with this grief.

I made postcards to send through the mail or to hand out. I must have sent emails, too.

Tom Cullinan was director, he would go on to direct the original staging of the play. We worked in various rooms in my house to create a shape for this performance. It was script-in-hand but there was also blocking. In the end what we created was the basis for the stage play I would eventually perform, on and off, for the next five years.

There were no slides, I read the title for each scene. There was no music or sound effects, those would come later. There were a couple music stands so I could place the script for longer passages. It was a staged reading. I wore the sweater.

The version dated June, 2002 is remarkably similar to the final version. I have edited and edited as the years have gone by, but its shape was established from the beginning. There are uninteresting details which were cut, and inaccuracies.
“I sang to it on Friday and I swear it was listening to me.”
That line may be poetic, or possibly emotion-evoking. It is not accurate. I changed that passage before the first reading. There were many, many f-bombs, and other obscenities which were unnecessary.

There is a scene where my brother and I are in the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan, observing the Annunciation Triptych. I compare myself to Joseph, the blithely ignorant father: “He has no idea what’s about to happen to him.” In the original draft I go on to describe other famous men who have lost children:
“God lost His son. Did you know the guy that writes Doonesbury, his wife had a stillbirth. And John Lennon and Yoko Ono had a number of miscarriages. And Luis Guzman. He’s that guy, you know, in 'Traffic' … yeah, you know, that guy, him, too. Read it somewhere. Really fucked him up for a while. Isn’t he great?”
That passage was struck from the August, 2002 version, the one I used for the reading. I had wanted to share what a widely-felt experience child loss is, and examples of famous men who have was one way to do that, I guess. But the scene is long and bends from topic to topic and we needed to draw a narrower focus.

Trying to describe our visit to Great Britain to see my other brother that summer, I originally read this:
“I don’t know what we wanted our trip to London to be, but it wasn’t what we wanted. I love that city, it bleeds history, and you’re surrounded by people from all over the world, rushing through its narrow streets, the places just pulses with music and art and exciting smells and noise. But it was still scary to even step outside and you know, there are newborn babies everywhere, even in England.”
Press to play.

But that wasn’t right. That’s some sexy but entirely vague explanation of how I feel when I am in any large city, and when things are entirely normal. It didn’t describe that place at that time, the way we were experiencing it. It was revised for the premiere.

The turnout was very good, all things considered. Sixty people? Maybe seventy? Following the reading I changed and sat in the back while Tom led a post-show discussion about the script.

I mean, here’s the thing. Everyone in the room knew me, most likely knew both me and my wife. They knew we’d lost a pregnancy. I knew no one was going to be very critical of the work. But I didn’t know what I’d written. Was it a play? Was this a story anyone wanted to hear? Would they say, I am glad you got that off your chest?

Well, no. No one said that, at least not yet. And there were generous questions about form and clarity. Someone suggested I cast other actors to play the characters I impersonate which was interesting and while that was not something I wanted to do you it has been done that way.

One theater colleague, a playwright (I did not yet call myself a playwright) marveled at the fact that I would even attempt something like this. She said there was this conventional wisdom that it takes ten years before someone can successfully write about tragedy, and yet I just went ahead and did it.

And Randy Rollison, Artistic Director of Cleveland Public Theatre asked if I had any plans for it. I said I had not. He asked if I would like to participate in a new works program he was planning, called Big Box. I said I would.

My wife and I were already four months pregnant with our next, and living child. They would be a month old when this new play would would premiere at CPT in February 2003. And that is how two decades can pass without your really noticing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

How I Spent My Summer (2022)

June: Topsail Beach
This past weekend we visited Athens, Ohio. To celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. Also, to drop our eldest back at school. A second-year. A sophomore. There is much I could say about my sophomore year at Ohio University. It is enough to say I never accomplished as much as they have their first year, and I lazed away my first summer break from college while they worked and worked and worked. They are my inspiration and my motivation.

I have continued to recuperate from my eye surgery. There are good days and bad. Sleeping remains a challenge. And writing. And reading. I spend a great deal of time on social media, because that is easy. But even my relationship to social media has changed this summer.

July: Deck Time
Last month, someone contacted me via Twitter to let me know they have been made aware that something they had posted on that social media site I have reposted onto my professional Facebook page.

I post all manner of things on my Facebook page, related to playwriting, to spur conversation, sure. But also to generate attention.

However, I don’t know this person. Another playwright, yes. But they are not a famous person. What right did I have to repost their thoughts somewhere else for my own purposes? None at all. It was a mistake. I was wrong. I took down the post and I apologized.

This exchange occurred just as my family was leaving on vacation without me the day before I would undergo surgery on my left eye was extremely helpful. It meant that instead of spending the day feeling sorry for myself, I could spend the day hating myself.

July: Zoom Reading
Feeling sorry for myself means something beyond my control happened to me, that I am a victim of circumstance. And as far my eye is concerned, perhaps that is true.

But I do shit like this all the time. Social media has only enabled me to cast a wider net of people to hurt. Hating oneself, at least, places blame squarely where it belongs.

The ten days I spent on my own I had the chance to do a lot of viewing. I watched Under the Banner of Heaven, completed BoJack Horseman, a friend came over and we watched The Moderns, another joined me to watch Magnolia. Each and every one of these stories are about men who plow thoughtlessly through their lives, only tangentially aware of their own sense of entitlement. Viewing or reviewing them, I was acutely aware of my own failings.

July: College Visit
I have both thoughtlessly and also with intention damaged personal items that were meaningful to my ex-wife. I have ended friendships with one carefully chosen sentence. I have complicated relationships by saying things I should not have said.

I have transgressed. I have been inappropriate. I have failed to return that call. I have pretended to be asleep.

Early in the social media era, long before the #MeToo era, this guy I know posted something on Facebook along the lines of, “If you are a woman I have hurt, I want to apologize.” That was it. I was incredulous. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. No one responded. Because cringe?

August: Birthday Reunion
But, you know, I understood the impulse. We know we have done bad things. We want people to believe we are good. But we’re really not. I wasn’t when I was a sophomore at Ohio University. And also last month. When will I hurt someone next?

This is not really an account of how I spent my summer, except to say that I have been going through some things. Convalescing has provided an awful lot of time to go through them. My final year of grad school begins next week, and I wonder what I will be writing.

June: Theater Camp

Friday, July 29, 2022

Our Missing Hearts (book)

Pengo's 2022 Summer Book Club
“All the King’s Screenwriters, 1946: A drama of how Fascism might even come to this country.”
- Firesign Theatre, "Dear Friends"
First, a quick update on my health; I’m good. It’s difficult to see out of my left eye, which looks like a disgusting bloody mess, but it feels fine, a little sore for the additional use. A friend came over yesterday and we watched Magnolia. Man, does that thing hit different once your parents are dead.

But, okay. So. On June 24, 2022, the day Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, a playwright on Twitter recommended all those who were moved to write about this disastrous historical event concentrate on the future, not the present. Two wit; write about the effects this will have on people in the future, not about what is happening today.

Which is to say, speculate. Speculative fiction.

Recently, my fourteen year-old niece was reading The Handmaid’s Tale, the 1984 novel that surged with attention after the 2016 election and the Hulu television adaptation that followed. Author Margaret Atwood created an America in the not-too-distant future in which conservative politics and a very real calamity in the human birthrate combine to create a nation where women are regarded primarily as chattel for breeding.

If you could imagine such a thing.

The success of her work, and stories like this, is in its believability. It is grounded in a reality based on laws which have passed, behaviors which have been exhibited, things that have happened.

Dystopian fictions like 1984 (1949, or did I just confuse you) are extreme in their depiction of the future and so lean more into the realm of science fiction, with their guesses at future technologies. As if you can imagine a world where there are screens in every room which watch you just as you watch them, or that screaming at one would be limited to two minutes a day.

With It Can’t Happen Here (1935), novelist Sinclair Lewis set the events of an authoritarian America in his present. With Mussolini’s reign firmly established and Hitler on the ascendant, Lewis sought to shake the United States from the naïve assumption that our democratic systems take care of themselves and that we would never willingly elect a tyrant.

Art: Hartley Lin
The New Yorker, July 31, 2022
Philip Roth put a spin on Lewis’s novel with The Plot Against America (2004), a revisionist history in which the charming hero and Christian Nationalist Charles Lindbergh runs for President in 1940 and wins.

Imagining an alternate Roth family based on his own, this tale centers on an American family that suffers under the Antisemitism which, previous expressed in more subtle and one might say normative manner, is unleashed in naked fury by an American populace emboldened by their new leader.

If you could imagine such a thing.

This summer I had the opportunity to read an ARC (advance review copy) of Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, which will be released in October. As described in advance promotional materials, Ng has created an America which has been “governed by laws written to preserve ‘American culture’ in the wake of years of economic instability and violence.” 

Reading this on the beach in North Carolina the the days immediately following Dobbs v. Jackson, in a season when inflation and gas prices may have more effect at the polls than the daily revelations of just how far our former President went to subvert the 2020 election, her work might also have the more immediate title, It Is Happening Here. Or that it has.

It’s the kind of book I would like to imagine being added to the middle school curriculum of every middle school in the nation, if we weren’t living in a land where the reading lists are currently being culled rather than expanded.

Penguin Random House releases "Our Missing Hearts", a new novel by Celeste Ng, on October 4, 2022.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Letterman's Final Morning Show

Merrill Markoe & David Letterman
"The David Letterman Show"
October 24, 1980
Had some folks over last night to celebrate my birthday. I thought it would be good to have several people over so they could talk to each other and I would just listen. As it happened, I feel like I did most of the talking. I felt more normal than I have in a week.

Sleeping is still very uncomfortable. In the middle of the night, I watched a YouTube video of the last episode of David Letterman‘s morning program. His first shot at stardom was a daytime television program which was part David Letterman humor, and part… morning program. Who greenlit this, I cannot fathom.

It lasted six months, even that long is crazy when you think of it, over the summer and early fall of 1980. I actually saw this show, because you know, it was summer, I was 12, and it was on television.

For this last episode of what he at that time probably considered the end of his career, he introduced and had a brief interview with the entire company. Announcers, musicians, video editors, crew, etc. He tried to give everybody a little time and also keep it entertaining.

Each staff writer had the opportunity to come out and do one bit. One by one, a white man in a corduroy blazer would step out and make a joke.

At last, he introduced Merrill Markoe. The only female writer on his staff. She was the only one who looked cool. Like, she didn’t care what she looked like, which was on point in 1980. She was wearing a show T-shirt and jeans. She looked like a rock star. She looked like Patti Smith.

Her bit involved explaining to Dave, in the audience, how the show was probably getting canceled because it didn’t have enough sex and violence. To rectify this omission, she brought out a copy of Playboy, and also Playguy (?), set them on a table in the middle of the stage, and offered a tiny peek of each to Dave. That was the sex.

Got my birthday cake.
For the violence, she ushered Dave to the side, put on dagger goggles, undid a rope that was tied to the wall, blew a whistle, and a very heavy weight dropped straight down from the ceiling onto the (pre-scored) table, destroying that — and the pornography she had left sitting on it.

Three or four dudes came out and told their little joke, then Markoe pulled a stunt that worked on many levels.

Did I mention she was the only female writer on the staff? She was also the head writer. Merrill Markoe is such a boss.

Had my follow-up with the eye doctor later in the morning, and things are progressing well. The tear has been repaired, it is healing, I no longer have to keep my head down, and I can sleep normally so long as it is on my right side. This is such excellent news.

I may not resume running for a month, but you know. I can deal with that.

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Maine Videos

Last night I slept for about five hours, set up and watch TV for an hour or so, then slept for another hour and a half.

I have terrible pain in my neck and shoulders, holding my head in the correct position. Also, into a position where I can sleep in my head tilt of the way it supposed to be.

Hopes of offer to come by and keep me company, but I’m not really into that. With my head in this position, I feel underwater.

But I’m eating well, dear friend from high school brought me ice cream the other day. Did I blog about that already? I can’t remember.

My dreams, what dreams I have are very strange. In one, the cat got out. Okay, that’s not strange at all. In another, I had to put this blue go on my shoulders and chest to get home safely.

Other people’s dreams are boring.

Ten years ago I had a new laptop and was playing with various video features. I chose to document our trip to Maine, making one video a day.

It’s hard to describe a place that is so familiar, and yet not really your own. It’s about the setting, of course. It’s perfect. The cabin we stay in, it’s set back from the others, affording more privacy, but it has this excellent view of the water. And it’s best when every room is occupied because it’s full of family and friends.

I’m still not used to my grandparents no longer being there. I’ll never be used to my own parents never being there again. But it’s the vivid memory of them that makes it a joyful place to return to.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Under the Banner of Heaven (miniseries)

Gil Birmingham & Andrew Garfield
"Under the Banner of Heaven"
(FX, 2022)
It’s that second day after a major procedure, when you can feel the worst. That’s where I am right now. Tried to sleep sitting up, tried to sleep lying on my chest. Around four in the morning I curled up on my side with my head twisted to the right and I was finally able to get a couple hours rest.

Meantime, I have been burning through the FX miniseries, Under the Banner of Heaven, Based on the true crime novel by Jon Krakauer.

My father first shared Krakauer with me. The summer my wife and I got married, I read Into Thin Air, his account of the 1996 Chomolungma (Everest) Disaster, while sitting on my porch in 90° weather, and it literally made me chilly. On our honeymoon, she was reading Into the Wild on the patio of a hotel room at Denali, not even 20 miles from where Christopher McCandless died.

Under the Banner of Heaven begins with a double murder which just happened to take place thirty-eight years ago today, July 24, 1984. A pious young woman and her child were killed by men who felt their actions were justified by God. Victim and assailants thought of themselves as Mormon, but had different ideas of what that meant. But women dying at the hands of men in a quest for dominance is universal, and not unique to any one belief system.

I haven’t read the book this series is based on. Father did, an amateur historian and devout Christian. I can only imagine how he may have judged each of the individuals represented in the book, those who are members of the Mormon faith.

I feel however, that this miniseries adaptation, like the musical The Book of Mormon, is not a critique or condemnation of this one Christian religion, but of all religion. In this case, it is also a metaphor for the United States as a whole. Watching this show, which follows the murder investigation and also depicts the historical origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that the Mormon church is possibly the most American thing ever created.

I believe that Americans are essentially good, and that the American experiment has allowed us the freedom to live independently from strictures of the past. But it has also allowed for a minority of white men to pursue paths of complete selfishness which they defend through a mutating set of beliefs which they call righteous but are always a means to whatever end they desire.

So it is with the LDS, and also the Supreme Court.

Heavenly Father wants us to do this is a common phrase throughout the series, and it is as mutable as the assertion Founding Fathers want us to do this. Interpreting and perverting their unknowable wills has become its own religion.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

On Sight (Recovery)

Had my morning after, follow up exam. Things look pretty good, except they reevaluated the way I have to hold my head.

See, there’s a gas bubble in my eye. They put it there, I even have a green wristband to let any potential EMT know there’s a gas bubble in my eye. It’s there to keep fluid away from my now repaired retinal tear to allow healing.

The tear is in the back of my eye, gas rises, therefore I need to keep my head down to keep the bubble up. Yesterday, they thought I just needed to tilt my head to the right side, today it is a bit more extreme.

I will literally need to sleep like Joseph Merrick, propped up with pillows, my head hanging down.

It’s funny, people kept texting me yesterday, checking in, asking how I am, if I need anything. But texting was a real pain, because I had to keep my head up and to the side.

Now that I’ve been told to look down and slightly to the right, I have been texting all day. More than I’ve ever texted before. Long, hour long text conversations with people in Idaho, colleagues working the BorderLight Festival, offers to bring meals turn into recollections of thirty year old productions, I’m getting updates on how well last night‘s premiere performance of The Learned Ladies (Cleveland Shakespeare Festival) went. Just texting people I feel more social than I have in weeks.

Liz Mikel (center) as John Hancock in "1776"
(American Repertory Theatre, 2022)
Last night my family gave me their assessment of the A.R.T production of 1776. All three of them thought it was absolutely amazing. Just beautifully and powerfully performed, and heartbreakingly timely. And I’m heartbroken to have missed it. This was my idea! When tickets went on sale I expressed my deep desire to see this production, of a musical which I have loved since I was a child, reinterpreted in just this way.

So, when my wife assumed they would stay home, at least until my surgery was through, I insisted that they not. I wanted all of us to see it. All of us not seeing it would’ve been so much worse.

And it’s going to Broadway! So, you know what? I’m going to Broadway. Because God knows, I want to travel.

Friday, July 22, 2022

On Sight (Post-Operative)

Whose is that face in the mask?
When my son suffered a head injury shortly after his first birthday, the one silver lining I could hang onto was that I was glad we live in Cleveland. Say whatever else you want about the Forest City, it is the home to two medical institutions, both of which people come to from around the world for treatment.

That, and that we have insurance.

The procedure itself was remarkable in that it was utterly unremarkable. In the day or so before hand I started to develop fears of what might actually occur. I had agreed to “twilight“ anesthesia, meaning I would be alert, or at least conscious.

Did that also mean that I would be aware of what was happening, even if there was no pain? They would put a gas bubble into my eye. With a needle? They would put a band around the back of my eye to hold the retina in place, did that mean they would be removing my eye from its socket?

With or without a sense of feeling, these things are discomfiting, even traumatizing to think about.

And yet, I can’t tell you what happened. I was awake the whole time, but I have no idea what they were doing. My right eye was covered for protection, so I could see light. As for my left eye, the one being worked on, I couldn’t see anything at all.

A good friend drove me to and from the hospital, other friends brought me pizza for dinner. I need to move as little as possible lying on my right side, so I’m catching up on a lot of television.

Yesterday I watched all of The Bear. last night I watched Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. That one could’ve been a play. Two people in a hotel room. Folks have suggested all kinds of comedies, I’m not really up for that.

So I’m gonna watch Under the Banner of Heaven. Dad liked the book and my son has really gotten me into Andrew Garfield.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

On Sight (Pre-Operative)

Image of my Future Foretold
Self as Kent in "King Lear"
(Beck Center, 2019)
The good news is I will now be in town for the Borderlight Festival!

That’s a joke. I was going out of town for the week, now I am staying home to have surgery to repair a detached retina, so I’m not going anywhere. Jokes really do suffer when you explain them.

The Borderlight Festival, for those of you who are unaware, is an international theater and performing arts festival that takes place in downtown Cleveland and the only reason you haven’t read anything about it here is because it has always taken place when I am out of town.

I can’t tell you how much it pains me that there is now an international theater and performing arts festival in Cleveland, Ohio and that I am not part of it. But my family comes first, and I have no regrets about that. I have tried this year to flog a few of their offerings on social media, and hope someday to attend or even submit a production.

And up until yesterday afternoon, I was planning to leave town. A week long vacay with the entire family. They were ready to suspend travel, at least until I had undergone surgery, but I insisted they go. My son has a college trip schedule for tomorrow morning in upstate New York, and we have tickets to see the A.R.T. revival of 1776. That was my idea, I so wanted to see this production. But it would be a shame for everyone to miss it, I need them to report back to me how it plays.

Then onto Maine. My family vacation spot. My brother’s family is coming, my eldest will be joined by their partner – whose parents are also joining us (I mean them) ostensibly for my birthday, which is Tuesday. And the cousins, the cove, the view from the deck of the Barnstable.

One week out of the year, every year. Not this year, not for me. Having them miss it too would have made me even more miserable than I currently am.

Yesterday a doctor examined my eyes, prodding them with a medal stick. It was very painful. She remarked at how well I managed, so calm. My blood pressure, my pulse were normal, better than normal. My wife said she watched me breathe during this examination, that my hands and arms were relaxed. I was practicing my breathing. But it hurt. It hurt a lot. I did my crying later.

Today I am lying on my left side, so the damage doesn’t increase. After the procedure, I am to lie on my right side for the week. This is not a vacation. I cannot do anything.

So, I am depressed about not being with my family. I am extremely apprehensive about the procedure itself. I am anxious about not being able to run for the foreseeable future. 

And I am very, very worried about being alone with my thoughts for an entire week. Because I do not like being alone. I do not like being alone at all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

On Abortion

"The atmosphere is tense," said Robert Corlett, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland. "But we are prepared."
- Washington Post, July 9, 1993  
Rich "Torque" Weiss & Shelly "Gooch" Bishop
The Plain Dealer, 7/14/1993
Photo: Roadell Hickman
Mainstream Democrats, those who have supported legislation to preserve abortion rights, have also contributed to the entirely unnecessary sense of shame that has long been associated with this vital reproductive health procedure.

“Safe and accessible but rare,” they would say. Why rare? As if it is something which should not happen. Safe and accessible and legal, now and forever. That was all that needed to be said. The rest is judgment.

I bristled in 1992, in 1996 and in 2000, as candidates Bill Clinton and Al Gore would firmly but dispassionately assert their support for a "woman’s right to choose.”

To choose what? A new bath mat? To choose the chicken tempura? How can you defend a thing if you cannot say it? They made it clear, the very word abortion could not be spoken. It was unspeakable.
unspeakable, adj.
1a. Incapable of being expressed in words
1b. inexpressibly bad: horrendous
Abortion is neither of those things. In words, abortion is the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, and while you may ascribe negative feelings to that, that is entirely subjective.

So, not unspeakable. However, by ceding the definition of abortion to those who would seek to abolish it, those who would preserve it have waited until far too late to embrace it.

Twenty-nine years ago this week, during the summer of 1993, an organization calling itself Operation Rescue set out to stage protests in nine cities across the country, outside clinics that provided reproductive health procedures (including abortion) and also the homes of doctors who perform such procedures.

This was only four months after Dr. David Gunn, an OB/GYN and provider of abortion services, was shot to death outside of his clinic in Pensacola, Florida.

Members of Guerrilla Theater Co. joined a coalition of abortion rights advocates, attending seminars on ways to keep ourselves from getting arrested during counter-protests. Planned Parenthood and other organizations taught us to keep our cool, but put pressure on more radical groups, like Refuse and Resist, not to be confrontational. We were all instructed to make nice with the Cleveland Police.

We needed to keep close to the street, but never step into the street or we would be arrested. We needed to keep a clear path to the door and keep the sidewalk clear or we would be arrested. And most important of all, we were told not to face nor antagonize the opposition.

Each faction was expected to keep on one side of the street, facing the street, side by side. We could not look at each other, speak to each other, nor antagonize each other. We were to face the street, wave our signs, chant our slogans to the general public, but not to each other, and not towards the clinic. If the Police felt one side was confronting the other, we would be arrested.

We, the members of Guerrilla, met to throw around ideas for performance-based stunts, but didn’t think it was appropriate to attract that kind of attention to ourselves. It wasn’t about us. Besides, we had all been explicitly warned not to stir things up.

So, we just made sure we were on the line, bright and early. We held up signs that had been made by others and responded to passing, honking cars as though they were our supporters regardless of whether they were.

Things passed without incident for us on that first day. Early the second day, however, a tall, stocky, middle-aged man wearing a suit stood with his toes on the line facing our side of the sidewalk, and began addressing us. He was balding with a gray beard. Not a bad look.

He called out, "God sayeth blah blah blah blah blah!" or something to that effect.

"You're not supposed to be facing us, sir," someone said politely.

"God will blah blah blah the unrighteous," he called out -- he wasn't screaming or yelling, he was obviously used to projecting his voice long distances.

One of us went to a policeman and pointed out what should have been obvious, this guy was antagonizing us and that he shouldn't be doing that. The policeman walked over to the Tall Man, and asked him to please face the street. The Tall Man made a brief objection as re: freedom of speech, yadda yadda and faced the street again. For about five minutes.

Soon he was back to facing us. "God holds sway over the wicked," he yelled, "you cannot hide from the judgment of the Lord."

As this was the second day, our fear and adrenaline had subsided a bit. Our minds were clearer, but it was hot and we were tired ... and it was only noon.

"You cannot hide from the judgment of The Lord," he said again.

The Plain Dealer, 7/13/1993
Photo: Robin Layton Kinsley
Torque and I walked up to the line to face him. A few of our cohorts saw us making this bee-line towards him and tried to stop us, not knowing what we were up to.

We stood at the line, facing him, smiling a little. He looked us in the eye. He was taller than we were, and I am tall. We said nothing. The police did nothing.

"The Lord shall smite his enemies!” he said to us, so everyone could hear.

Then slowly, and with great care, standing side by side, looking straight at the Tall Man, we raised our arms and put our hands onto the domes of our own heads. He continued to stare at us.

In unison we moved our hands down onto our own shoulders. Maintaining eye-contact as long as we could, we bent down to touch our own knees.

And finally, breaking eye contact for a moment, we touched our toes. Then we stood up straight and stared at the Tall Man, and waited.

"The Lord --" he started, and as he did so, so did we.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes.

The police walked nearer to where a conflict appeared imminent.

"The Lord Our Father will save you from --"

Heads, shoulders, knees and toes. Knees and toes.

After it became apparent that that was all we were going to do, and that we weren't going to stop until he shut up, he wandered away, and so did we.

It was only perhaps five minutes before the Tall Man was once again standing perpendicular to the street, his toes on the line, facing our side, pontificating.

"God will honor the virtuous life!" he called. Torque and I exchanged a brief glance and sped back to our positions in front of him. But we had already discussed a change in tactic.

We touched our own heads, side in front of him, and then our shoulders. We touched our knees and our toes.

"The Lord sayeth I will be vengeful upon those --"

"YES!" we shouted together as we stood up straight. His mouth closed. We touched our heads.

Shoulders. Knees. Toes.

"The Lord Our Father --"

"YES!" we cried, orgasmically as we stood back up.

"YOUR STRANGE RITUALS WILL NOT SAVE YOU!" he yelled, and defiantly shrunk away from the line.

Our satisfaction was short-lived, however. It is impossible to know whether or not our confrontation embarrassed the officers who failed to act but very shortly a few members of Refuse & Resist were arrested for being a “traffic hazard during rush hour” as well as “taunting people and refusing the adhere to police rules” when all they were actually doing was crossing a side street, not the main thoroughfare, across from the protest.

We were once more tense and angry, our end of the sidewalk chanting “PEACE, officer! PEACE, officer!”

The next day Beemer, Torque and I brought our own signs, and stood with the crowd on the Operation Rescue side of the street. We had signs that read:



Leviticus. 22:24

Because everyone was facing the same direction, it took a while before anyone realized what our signs read. There were some murmurings and finally a young man said to me, “Hey, friend, you’re making us look bad.”

I said to him what so many evangelicals have told me throughout the years: “You’re almost there.”

The Plain Dealer, 7/12/1993
Photo: Roadell Hickman
Recalling the events of July 1993, it was clear even then that Roe was a house built on sand. (Matthew 7:26) Organizers from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice wrung their hands over the positive optics that were generated by Operation Rescue, and the more confusing message sent by activists like those members of Refuse & Resist.

The associate director of Greater Cleveland Planned Parenthood said that “some of the stuff (Refuse & Resist has done) is disgusting,” referring to stunts such as when one protester arrived as a crucified woman wrapped in a bloodied American flag. “It’s harmful to the Pro-Choice movement.”

Meanwhile the media was marveling at how passive and meek the Operation Rescue protestors were behaving while at the same time reporting on their protesting outside of the private homes of doctors, which in light of the recent murder of Dr. Gunn must have been absolutely terrifying to those inside.

Since 1993 Operation Rescue has branded itself Operation Save America and has expanded its efforts into harassing school districts into banning gay-straight alliance student groups and even ceremoniously burning non-Christian religious texts. 

Defenders of reproductive freedom were wrong to believe that a soft message maintaining the status quo could ever remain successful. With Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization effectively ending the national right to safe and legal abortion, we have shifted the language from “a woman’s right to choose” to one of “bodily autonomy” which is stronger and punchier, but we must also not be shamed from using the word abortion.

In the few weeks since Dobbs, and the implementation in Ohio of a law prohibiting abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, we have already learned of a ten year old who has gone to Indiana to receive an abortion. A cancer patient who could not receive chemotherapy while pregnant who has gone to Indiana to receive an abortion.

I can only imagine my own wife, suffering from preeclampsia, our unborn child already dead, having to travel to Indiana to receive the abortifacient drugs to induce labor, drugs which quite possibly saved her life.

Also? Early in our relationship, my wife Toni I had an elective abortion. We have never regretted that decision, and we would have made the same decision today. Looking back, that decision made the rest of our lives together possible.

It was our legal right to do so, and it will be again.


“Operation Rescue to Begin Antiabortion Demonstrations Today in Seven Cities” by Gary Lee, The Washington Post, 7/9/1993 

“4 Arrested at Abortion Protests at Two Clinics” by Joe Frolik, Plain Dealer, 7/12/1993

“Anti-abortionists' burning of Quran called 'hateful'” The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 7/20/2006

"Man Charged With Rape of 10-Year-Old Ohio Girl Whose Abortion Story Dave Yost, Other Republicans Called a Fabrication" by Vince Grzegorek, Cleveland Scene, 7/13/2022