Q: Why do you feel this story needs to be told right now? This story is at once timely and timeless. The process of grieving a loved one, worrying about what the future holds, the decision to stay where everything is familiar versus venturing into the wider world...these are all part of the human experience. But the opioid epidemic, fueled by the over-prescribing of opioid-based painkillers, is something that has been growing in the U.S. for years, to the point where it is affecting people of all genders, races, ages, economic backgrounds and geographic locations. The first step in getting people to address this as the public health crisis it is, is to make people understand that this can happen to anyone, with devastating consequences.
Q: What's the approach to telling this story? In a lot of ways, this was an easy to play to write, since it's rooted in my own personal experiences of losing a loved one suddenly, and living in a small town that felt familiar and comforting, yet horribly restrictive at the same time. I wanted those experiences to inform the characters, the setting, and the overall tone of the play. I also wanted to challenge myself to grow as a playwright, which was the impetus for the play's structure, which shifts back and forth in time, and is almost like two plays happening simultaneously. We see Jimmy alive, as well as the aftermath of his death, so how do those two storylines inform each other? What clues do we get, and how do they build tension? At its core, it's a pretty straightforward story, but I didn't want to tell it in a straightforward way.
Q: What's the process in getting this story onto its feet? My favorite part of being a playwright is getting into the room with the director and actors and seeing the words take on a life of their own. There really is a certain magic that happens when the ink on the page becomes actual dialogue and actions. And nine times out of ten, the actors and director make it so much better than I could have ever imagined. That's the beauty of collaborative arts - it takes a little bit of the pressure off, because I know as long as there are smart actors and smart directors working on a piece, they will find layers and moments and emotions that enhance it so much. In this particular case, working with Carly as the director is great because we've known each other forever, so I trust her completely, and feel very open and comfortable working with her. Since we're from the same hometown, she also inherently understands the world this play is set in, which is also a huge benefit.
Q Any additional thoughts on some of the themes of the play? Whether that's addiction, toxic masculinity, class warfare, clash between conservatives and liberals, etc. One of the important functions of theatre, in my opinion, is to expose us to the unfamiliar, and show us what we still have in common as human beings despite our differences. This play is set in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania, which is only two hours and 100 miles north of Philadelphia, but could very well be on a different planet. This disconnect became more evident than ever to me during the election last year, when everyone in my Philadelphia circles thought there was no way Trump would win, while two hours north in my hometown, I saw street after street where every lawn had a "Trump/Pence" sign on it. This play doesn't deal with the election, but I hope it demonstrates the different mentality and culture of this place, while also shining a light on what emotions and experiences are universal to all of us.