When we put on one of my shows, we live it. It’s not just that the actors sink their souls into their parts. It’s not just that we all work our tails off to set my words to stage. Take TFOJB for example. It’s about people in a tent city that moves in next door to Jovi, the caterer. Jovi and her loved ones decide to hear the stories from the tent city at fabulous dinners she prepares.
That’s when the story begins its sizzle. People. Experiences. Relationships. Food. Sports. They all collide by the second act.
But the story doesn’t end with the chef’s final words (spoiler alert) “Bon Appetit!”
It’s a show about homelessness and it means going out on the street. I’ve gone on and on about the show in New York, and about Daisy in the Diamond District (whose story I licensed for a future show — Clarity).
The next show is in Boston (with Chicago and Pittsburgh emerging as the next places) and my trip to Boston in June set off another of these collisions. I spent a lot of time in the theater district, and talked to my friends at Howlround/Emerson College. It was night and something made me get off the T at the Boyleston Station. I saw her on the second landing — I didn’t ask her name but I think of her as Iris, after the eponymous song by the Goo Goo Dolls. She was for sure younger than my eighteen-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, and looked like someone Caitlyn would befriend, even with the change jar and eyes filled with fear.
I set a few slips of money in her jar and was practically speechless by her appearance — neat and clean and not on the street long from what I could tell. I could think of nothing to say except: “Whatever you’re going through, this isn’t forever.”
She beamed. She quietly said, “Thank you.” She was not used to begging for money from strangers.
I took the rest of the staircase, willing myself to not look back at Iris. I felt Iris to my core but even her glow was quickly eclipsed by the sight of the Old Park Church outside the T station.
The outside of the church has on nearly three sides several shallow, wide steps leading up to a large landing before the main entrance to the building. On these steps, neatly stacked, were at least fifty homeless people, bundled and ready to sleep. I started for a minute. I wondered if there was a hierarchy, if there were friends or families staying together, if there was a morning meal at the church they awaited, or an evening one just finished. I wondered if their loved ones knew where they were. If they were missed. If someone loved them who would take them if they could, or if, like me, everyone older and/or wiser who loved them is gone.
Before that, I met my Boston director, Laurie. She has lots of ideas to make TFOJB more than just a show. Boston is the perfect place to write more of the story of TFOJB. We’re making connections with people who have actually served, visited and talked with people who are homeless in Boston. Whether we get their stories on film or video for a part of the show, the cast, crew and audience goes out to them in the night, or we do something even more incredible, TFOJB is gifted with a Boston director who will make it come alive, onstage and off.
We’ve been in contact with a major financier in Boston, but few shows are single-handedly produced. We need people wealthy with time, with talent, and with a gathering of funds to create with us.
Are you in?