DON'T YOU JUST LOVE THEATRE PEOPLE... Some very good news today...perfect Christmas presents. John Stephens, the artistic director of Theatre Gael in Atlanta, called this morning and said he wants to do a staged reading of my play, The Dark Horse, on Feb. 6 and 7 at 14th Street Playhouse. This will be the first production of the play in seven years. Damn, time flies. The Dark Horse won the 1994 Deep South Writers Festival Award from the University of Louisiana and then the Georgia Theatre Conference Award in 1997. It received a staged reading at the latter event, and then I directed a full production at the Heritage Theatre Festival in 1998. And that was the last go-round.

In a previous life, I was part of a community mockingly called "theatre people." It's a step up from "drama fag," which was what they called you in high school if you were in the theatre department. Well, I was never a drama fag. I never took a single theatre class in high school or my short lived college career. It wasn't until around 1990 or so that I got bitten by the acting bug. My best friend and thespian-extraordinaire Tina Miller talked me into writing a monologue for her class at Georgia State, taught by the brilliant Dr. Shirlene Holmes. The good doctor was impressed and encouraged me to write more. Although I wasn't attending Georgia State, I somehow found myself in a number of their productions. This led to a show at Agnes Scott College, and then a horrifying night at the long-gone 800 East theatre where I played a giant, talking, chain-smoking rat in a play called Free As A Bird. Don't ask.

Then this crazy homo named Jeff Shanks gathered a bunch of Georgia State actors together, interviewed us and created a play based on our lives. My character's name was going to be Sparkle or Glitter or something really gay. For the life of me, I cannot remember what the show was going to be called, but the cast revolted at his lack of direction and outrageous comments and the play was scrapped. He tried to get me to have sex with him, but I slept with his boyfriend instead. After they broke up, he got another boyfriend, who tried a number of times to get me into bed as well. Somehow, I resisted. See...drama, drama, drama.

Somewhere along the way, I wrote a short play called Porcelain, which was a homage (or giant rip off...take your pick) to Tennessee Williams. Two crazy sisters in a haunted house in New Orleans. It received a staged reading from a newly-formed theatre company called Script in Jonesboro, GA around 1991. Then it was produced in Douglasville at the Plaza Playhouse. Then it went in a drawer. I became artistic director of Script in 1992 after a fairly nasty coup from the crazies who had started the company and were slowly running it into the ground. I won't mention any names, because it isn't kind to speak badly of the certifiably insane, but the woman used to dress like Pocahontas and the husband claimed to know who killed Kennedy. I nearly gave myself a nervous breakdown the two years I was in charge. I starred in a couple of productions, including a one-man show called Outcasts Always Mourn by a great local writer named Grant Jerkins. The play, Grant and I received great reviews. Of course, as soon as I relinquished the reins of Script, it took a nosedive and disappeared forever in 1994.

After Script, I joined Southside Theatre Guild, a venerable theatre company just outside Atlanta. I worked backstage, acted in a number of productions (including Witness for the Prosecution, Anne of Green Gables and Marvin's Room to name a few) and worked backstage at many shows in various capacities. I even won an award for best props. However, when it was my turn to take the director's chair for The Little Foxes (which I had shepherded through the selection process), I was thwarted by a member of the board who was pissed that he wasn't selected to direct the show. He tried to blackmail me into casting certain actors and then outright lied to the Southside board of directors to get me out of the director's chair. He succeeded. Despite the overwhelming evidence that this motherfucker had lied and manipulated, the board caved in. In a very memorable closed door meeting, I told the board to go fuck themselves and never returned to Southside. I directed The Dark Horse, and then hung up my acting/directing ambitions.

I have resisted numerous overtures to come back to the theatre (even a plea to return to Southside Theatre Guild after they finally wised up and ousted the megalomaniac who shafted me), but I resisted. Earlier this year, I was approached by a local theatre company to adapt my long poem, AIDS Suite, for the stage as part of a larger work. I went to the first planning meeting and it totally turned me off. I pulled out of the production. So, when my old pal Merci Howe (who I met during the Script days and who starred in The Dark Horse back in 1998) told me the Georgia Theatre Conference (she's now on the board) was going to give me a trophy at this year's awards, it rekindled my interest. GTC had given me a check back in 1997, but the physical award never came. Merci helped to correct this oversight, and encouraged me to submit the play somewhere for another production. I pulled the play out of the file cabinet, polished it up a bit (even added a new monologue) and turned it over to John Stephens. It will be interesting to hear these words again and with whole new cast reading them. And even better...all I have to do is sit back and watch.

The best thing about that time in the theatre was all the incredible people I met along the way, including a few dysfunctional boyfriends who went on to inspire my poetry (thanks, guys!). Not only Merci, but my beautiful friend Joy Thomas, who is indispensable to my life despite the fact she lives in Destin now.

IN OTHER GOOD NEWS: I also found today that the grant I wrote for Georgia Poetry Society to get funding from Poets & Writers for my open mic/reading series at Barnes & Noble at Georgia Tech was approved! Bonnie Marcus called from New York to tell me that my application was the first received and the first granted. The money will go to Cherryl Floyd-Miller, who will appear in February to read from her brilliant collection, Chops.


Anonymous said…
You should write a novel about this. It sounds really funny!


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