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…
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.
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.
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!