The Clean Room/Make Sure It’s Me combo event on October 7th was a huge success! PHEW! It was more than a little nerve-wracking to wear so many hats in one day. I had a packed house for my final performance, with friends, family, ACT ONE regulars and plenty of curious newcomers all arrayed before me–and I made them work hard. Clean Room addresses a lot of difficult topics, including child abuse, suicide, and the perils of growing old . . . but I try to do so kindly. The involvement of the audience, the quality of their attention, is crucial to getting me through the show. This audience was with me from the start, so, with a painfully open heart but a good handle on my movement and vocal techniques, I “left it all on the floor.”
Actually, my masks do a good job of containing sweat and tears, so not much hit the floor of the West End Studio Theatre. But you get the idea.
As soon as I’d taken my final bows, I changed and mopped off my face and came back onstage to host the MSIM preview event: the marvelous novelist/playwright Kate Wenner was on hand to talk with us about her development of Make Sure It’s Me, which addresses traumatic brain injury in the military. At first, as I anticipated, people were rather stunned by Clean Room and needed a few moments to shift gears. Happily, Kate began by giving me kudos on both my writing and performance–if I hadn’t been aiming for “sophisticated” and “serious,” I would have jumped up to do a victory dance. Or rolled over on my back so she could rub my belly.
So, that raised a few questions for me about my work, and then we segued into talking about TBI, Kate’s background, etc. Next, we presented one scene from the play, which we’ll be staging in full at WEST next spring. Kudos and thanks to Paul Yarborough, Kim Holliday and Pam Battin-Sacks for a terrific performance in that scene! Afterwards, we began a conversation with the audience around TBI, caring for veterans in our families and communities, the dangers of suicide stemming from combat duty, and more. Lt. Col. Stephanie Riley of the NHNG was with us to lend her perspective as an Occupational Health nurse and case manager, and other members of the audience had family members affected by TBI. Their stories were sobering, but assured me of the importance of this project. We had to wind up the conversation when there was still so much to say, to make way for a tech rehearsal, but it was magical to have so many people engaged in these issues. I feel honored to continue leading this discussion in the coming months.
The next MSIM/nh event will be a table reading of the full play at the Portsmouth Public Library on November 14th. Contact me if you’d like to join us! In the meantime, for more information about MSIM/nh, including emergency contacts, click here.