A New York Pioneer, Falling
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Chuckling loudly, Bishop Desmond Tutu announced on an NPR interview: “Ours is a God of Surprises!”


When I started writing what eventually turned into the play FALLING, I wasn’t planning on writing a play. Maybe a non-fiction piece on parenting a teen with severe autism. Maybe a poem exploring my grief/joy as my older son moved away to college.

But the words just wouldn’t cooperate. Kept turning into scenes. Scary truths started spilling out on the pages, turning aspects of my reality into fictional honesty.

And I had to decide – would I surrender to the process? Would I take the chance of exposing myself, my family, my theatre company, to potential ridicule? Could I go to the deep places where fear and faith do battle? Could I really tell the truth?

Challenged by a colleague who said, “Just write and see what happens,” I wrote some more about what I sometimes jokingly refer to as “Extreme Parenting” (A Fabulous New Sport Coming to an Arena Near You!). I didn’t think that this story would be very interesting to anyone not raising a teenage son struggling with autism, but I wrote anyway.

I hired an amazing director and cast of actors. We worked, I rewrote, we argued, I rewrote – and then it opened. And then it sold out. We extended the run, twice, and still it sold out. And then it was optioned for a production Off-Broadway – which is now scheduled to open October 15th at the Minetta Lane Theatre.

And I realized that this isn’t a story about Autism. It’s a story about loving someone who is hard to love.

And we all have that in our lives, our families. (Just realized – God kind of models that sort of love - for us. Hmmmm.)

So I’m off on this adventure to New York – starting in September I’ll be there for rehearsals with the same Director and a great new cast. I feel a little like the pioneer women in the show I’m currently directing, who have to face down the wolves; except my wolves are the fear factory in my head telling me that I’m going to let down all the investors, friends and family who believe in the show. Or, perhaps worse, that I’m going to be successful and turn into something self-centered and false.

And God chuckles, I’m sure. When I flew out to Manhattan to participate in auditions for the show, I sat in the rooftop terrace of my hotel, reviewing plans for the following day. Something pulled my attention from my papers – a movement above me – and I watched in amazement as a single white feather casually fell on my table. I was sitting under a large canopy. There were no birds around, and no other feathers to be seen anywhere.

Those of you who have seen Falling will understand the significance of that symbol. For those of you who haven’t seen it, you’ll have to trust that it was a confirmation of God’s grace.


Mustardseed Blog

So This Is A Thing That's Happening Now

by Shualee Cook

I just checked my computer for verification, and it tells me that I created the document that eventually became An Invitation Out on Wednesday, December 9th, 2009. Which means I've been working on this script in some form or other for a little over five years now, hoping that one day it would fully exist. See, just like a tadpole is not yet a frog, a script is not yet a play. There is still more growing to do, a few more appendages to acquire. You can dot the last i, type out the final stage direction, but you didn't write those words to be read. You wrote them to be seen and heard, and for that you need other people.

Deanna Jent read one of the earliest drafts of my script back in 2011. At the time, it was precisely one bazillion and eight pages long, and full of a great many ideas that were quite interesting in theory, but pretty much a mess in practice. Yet even in that state, she saw something in the sprawl, believed in it, and decided to take a chance on me.

In the summer of 2013, I had been working on a new draft, trying to solve its very problematic ending, but I'd essentially been working in a vacuum, and had reached the end of where I could take the script alone in a room by myself. And lo and behold, an email from Deanna showed up in my inbox. She was teaching a playwriting seminar, and had someone drop out at the last minute. Would I possibly be interested in filling the empty slot, continuing to work on the play in the company of other playwrights? 8 weeks later, I walked out of that classroom with a completely new ending and a tighter focus on what the story was. Deanna said she might be interested in producing it for Mustard Seed Theatre if I'd be open to making some more revisions. I kept at it, and in early 2014, I got the official good news: the play I'd been working to see onstage for what seemed like ages would be a part of Mustard Seed's 2014/2015 season. At the very end of it. So, four years of waiting down, one to go.

For most of the last year, this upcoming production hasn't seemed quite real. I'd spent so much time thinking about that it became more of a fuzzy idea that people would ask me about occasionally, a theory rather than a tangible fact. But then, early this February, we had the first cast read-thru. I entered the theater, and there it was - the tables pushed together with clusters of chairs around it, the stack of scripts, the pencils, the cups of coffee - all the signs of a rehearsal process. Suddenly, there were tech people talking about how on earth to make the things I'd written actually work, the sounds of actors chatting in the lobby. Then Nicole came in - an actor and good friend who's been in both of the other shows of mine that have been performed so far. On the way to her seat, she gave me a huge hug, and just like that, it didn't seem like only a script anymore. A play was coming together. With my arms around her, it finally flashed through my mind. "So this is a thing that is happening now."

March 24th was our first rehearsal. Before the actors arrived, Maggy and Katie - our S.M. and A.D. - snuck me into the theater where our crew were already hard at work on the set. It seemed gigantic. Even in pieces, it was already grander than I had imagined. I just stood there and stared at it all until Maggy asked me what I thought, bringing me back to lucidity. All I could stutter out was "All of this is here because of something I wrote down on a piece of paper once." The implications of that seemed enormous, but Maggy and Katie just smiled.

A script is not yet a play. You can dot the last i, type out the final stage direction, but it doesn't become real until other people pour in their talents, their time, their passion even when it's very difficult work. "This is a thing that is happening now." But it doesn't happen alone.


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