SPEAK on stage at Fayetteville-Manlius

Last night was pretty much an out-of-body experience.

Anyone who reads my books knows that I struggled in high school, for a lot of different reasons. The bad news is that I was a depressed kid for a long time. The good news is that I did not die or do anything permanently stupid. I grew up, dealt with stuff, and became an extremely happy writer with an acute sensitivity for teens who are struggling with all manner of pain, stress, pressure, and sadness.

But last night I had to go back to my high school. The place I had worked so hard to get out of.

It still smells the same.

Three steps into the lobby and I started breaking out in hives. I wanted to bolt, but my Beloved Husband made me promise not to, plus I was curious about how the actors, crew, and playwright had interpreted SPEAK. I dug my fingernails into my palm and sat down in the auditorium where I had spent so many miserable hours. I focused on not hyperventilating.

And the kids saved me. Totally saved me, grabbed my heart, cradled it and made me proud to be connected to them. Thank you, thank you, thank you: Fiona Cunningham for taking the biggest risk of all and becoming Melinda for a while, Tyler Baird, who is Andy Evans only on stage, Chloe Tiso (Heather), Stephanie Jacobs (Rachel), Kate Bonsted (Ivy), and Ross Berman (David), along with all of the other actors and hardworking crew who rocked that stage. Thank you Regan Horacek for the fabulous poster, Steve Braddock for another tremendous job bringing one of my books to life on stage, drama teacher and director Scott Austin for making magic happen, and John Czajkowski for a brilliant set and lighting scheme.

(You can watch interviews with some of the cast from this Channel 10 Page.)

As if that wasn’t enough, Vera House was set up in the lobby to educate people about their powerful Clothesline Project for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Perfect.

One of the privileges of being the author upon whose book a play is based is that you get to go backstage after the show…

Image and video hosting by TinyPic …and talk to the cast and crew.


Image and video hosting by TinyPic Actors and crew members spread out on the incredibly functional and well-designed set. (The guy sitting in the green shirt is Tyler Baird, who played Andy Evans.) I answered questions and signed programs, scripts, posters, and shirts.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I thought we’d be backstage for maybe five minutes. After all, they had a cast party to get to. But everyone was so nice and they were all jacked up on the adrenaline of an outstanding performance so we wound up hanging out for more than an hour.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic These three girls also acted in the Gifford production of FEVER 1793.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic from the right: Scott Austin, Tyler Baird, me, Fiona Cunningham, and edited to add Melinda Calabrese, English teacher and Assistant Director. (Thank you Stage Manager & Alex!)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Steve and Fiona and me.

Thank you, thank you everybody connected to last night. I am completely honored with your interpretation of my work.

This is November 11th. That means Happy Birthday, Jared!

It also means please remember.

25 Replies to “SPEAK on stage at Fayetteville-Manlius”

  1. I’m sorry that walking in to your old high school triggered such negative feelings *hugs* And I’m impressed that you were brave enough to stay. I believe that being a teen is a brutal experience, and that it is far more difficult today than when I was a teen in the early 1980s. Thank you for giving voice to their struggles.

  2. Impressive

    Laurie,

    I loved the book and the article and movie clip look like they did it justice. You should be soooo proud.

    I don’t know if you remember me, but we met many years ago at a Poconos SCBWI retreat.

    :>)
    Lois Szymanski

  3. As bad as this sounds, it makes me hopeful that someone so successful like yourself was not “good” as a teen as you say…I have being 18..I’m glad you went back as “Yourself Now.” : )

  4. Wow, that is just awesome. I wish I could have seen the play, hopefully someday I’ll be able to see it somewhere. That must have been amazing for them to get to meet you, and vice versa. It sounds like they planned and rehearsed it well.

  5. Guided by the Old Oak Tree

    I think it would be cool to be quoted on the jacket of a book or in an ad for a movie or play. Given the chance, here’s what I have been thinking since I learned that F-M was going to stage Speak.

    “Laurie Halse Anderson writes with the enthusiasm of a tenth grader, past the fear of being a freshman and not yet jaded by senioritis. Time has brought her insights that we didn’t have then no matter how desperate we were.”

    I’m thrilled that the alma mater did well by you, except for the smell, which thanks to you, is now here in the Big Apple.

    Stay well and thanks for the update.

  6. thank you

    I was in this production of speak and I would just like to say thank you so much for coming to our show because I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to come back to a school that made your adolescence so difficult. It was an honor meeting you and being able to hear from you personally your experiences and feedback. It was truly an amazing opportunity to work with this story and your words. Thank you so much.

    Sincerely a big fan,
    Maria (Melinda’s “alter-ego”)

  7. Wow! I’m glad it went up so fantastically πŸ™‚ Our students just put on The Bluest Eye and it was fabulous. I’m sure they’d love to do Speak too (it’s an optional whole class book in our curriculum). Where should I tell our theater teacher to look for it?

    1. I have to find out from Steve and Farrar (hardback publishers) exactly what the status of the stageplay rights are. As soon as I know, I will post the info here and to my website. I am so pleased with this adaptation – I would be very happy to see it performed in other schools.

      BTW – The Bluest Eye? i love that book.

      1. I was hugely impressed with how they did The Bluest Eye. It was fabulous, modern, minimalist, moving theater. It’s such a great book. Our theater teacher seems to have a knack for finding really great plays, so I’m sure she’ll be all about Speak too.

  8. I’m so sorry coming back to FM was such a nightmare (I know the feeling all too well…thank goodness I’m graduating in June!), but I’m so glad you stayed to see us! Thank you so much for coming backstage and talking to us, it was such an honor. Take care, & here’s to (hopefully) never having to come back to that school again (unless, of course, we do a stage adaption of another one of your fabulous books). πŸ™‚

  9. Thanks!

    Laurie,
    Thanks again for coming to our production last night when it was so incredibly hard for you! It was amazing to hear what you had to say and I’m so glad we were able to bring your book to life!!
    -Chloe(heather)

  10. Oh, I know that exact feeling! I HATED high school, and had to go back there a few years ago, when my brother wrote and starred in a one act during their one act festival. It was this horrible feeling, and I hope I never have to go back ever again. Every time I had to go back there, I immediately started to feel sick. I look forward to getting my issues out through writing as well. =)

    I’m glad the production went so well. πŸ˜€

  11. wow! sounds like you had fun at the show! sorry going back was so scary though. a lot of my friends have gone back to visit CHS, but i’ve decided that i’m only going back to see the choir concerts and i’m going to see the musical too. i don’t feel comfortable going back during the day and seeing everybody like all my friends are. i wanted to come and see speak, but i went to franklin & marshall for a tour and i’ve decided that i want to transfer there next fall. the campus is really beautiful, and i like the atmosphere there. i already have a transfer application and everything. oh, and i looked through the course catalogue they sent me-there’s a class all about the history of CHOCOLATE! (thought you’d find that interesting;-)!) oh and one of the reasons i went to F&M this weekend besides the tour was to see danielle ganek (an F&M alumna i might add) speak about her book lulu meets god and doubts him. have you read it? i got it signed by her and i got a picture taken with her too. she’s very nice. and i really liked the book (yes i already read it lol). well anyway hope things are going well for you! miss you a lot! =) ♥

  12. Laurie:

    I also attended Fayetteville-Manlius. As you I came from another school district and entered FM back in the mid 70’s. My experience there was so traumatic that I left the district in the early 80’s and transferred to another school where thankfully I flourished. If I had not left when I did I don’t know where I would be today. I am an adult now and the scars I carry from those years are faded but as I read your entry today I was surprised by the pain I felt. My eyes began to tear, my heart was racing, my stomach was tied in knots. I guess I am not over it as much as I thought.

    I am happy to read that your experience Saturday night was wonderful. It sounds like you were able to heal some old scars of your own.

  13. FM SPEAK

    The girl on the far left in the one shot is Ms. Melinda Calabrese. She teaches English and was Assistant Director. Thanks for trusting us students with your characters and settting!
    the Stage Manager

  14. hi, i just want to say that i just finished your book, “Speak”. i am from jakarta, indonesia … and maybe that kind of school system or treatment doesn’t really similar but i think it is a good book, tackling subject of rape. thanks for writing it

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