The Play that Changed My Life
Growing up in my working class neighborhood only one hour and two trains away from New York City (you had to change in Jamaica from diesel to electric) meant I never went into The City to see a play. We went into The City occasionally to see a special doctor and those trips weren’t fun. But no one, and I mean no one, ever went into The City for any form of entertainment. We lived in a different world and City people were faraway strangers who were possibly dangerous. None of us had any concept of theater.
Then in the sixth grade, my teacher planned a trip to see a play in another town. Not the City. We were going to see a show put on by a visiting theatrical troupe. I don’t know what happened, but no one in the class, including the teacher, showed up. It was just my girlfriend, Jackie, and me.
I had no feeling of excited anticipation waiting for the overture as I would now. I don’t even remember the overture. The first thing I remember– the very first thing to wake me up to theater—was Aunt Eller charging onto stage with an egg beater in her hand yelling at the salesman who sold it to her. My body sat up straight. A grown woman who could’ve been my Grandmother was up there singing. Wow!
I didn’t know then that Oklahoma had changed all of musical theater back in the forties. All I knew was I LOVED what was happening on that stage.
Right after that evening I set about writing my own version of Oklahoma, using my mother’s old 78 rpm records. Jackie and I tried to direct the class in this version. Of course, no one took it seriously, including Jackie. I lost control of my cast and my pirated version never happened. But that first theatrical experience assured that I would go on to be a playwright, though it would be many more years before I wrote my first play.
Vanda: 2011 Winner: Pride Screen and Stage’s Women’s Work Contest (Patient HM
2009 Finalist: Lambda Literary Award in Drama (Vile Affections)
2008 Vile Affections (Full-length play): published by Original Works
2007: Profiled in Dramatists’ Guild Magazine, The Dramatist.