• By: A.J.

Ode to a Barn. And an Update

It’s 2:33 on Friday afternoon, August 3rd. I’m writing this from inside the barn where our theatre company, Theatre on the Lake, performs. Outside, it’s humid. I’d guess the sky is winding up for another rainstorm, and the wood slats and roofing above me occasionally wheeze and moan as the sun darts out from behind the clouds to shine its rays upon the building. Just now, a bird called across the field and a chorus of crows responded from some treetop.

But it’s still, for the most part, just the quiet pitter-patter of my fingers on this keyboard.

In four hours from now, our company will be in here warming up for tonight’s show. We’ll walk back and forth putting on microphones and costumes and occasionally belting out a few bars of something. Maybe it’s from Songs for a New World, which we’re performing right now, or maybe it’s from a different musical, like Les Miserables. Or maybe it’s Beyonce. Or Billy Joel. Who knows. We’re a cast of performers. We tend to sing. A lot.

And five hours from now, the show will be starting. The space will be packed, alive, and vibrant. I’ll be nervous. I always am. I'll struggle to turn on my microphone, and I’ll swear the first notes I sing will be wayyyy off pitch. But then the music will cue. The lights will come up. And I’ll be fine, and we’ll sing our hearts out, as we always do.

And seven hours from now, the show will be over. We’ll unplug the lighting board to safe guard against any nighttime storms, change back into our regular clothes, and shut the barn door until tomorrow.

And tomorrow, Saturday, will be the same cycle: quiet, loud, quiet. Relaxed, nervous, relaxed. Off, on, off.

But then, on Sunday, two days from now, we’ll load out. The summer performing season will come to a close not with a transcendent high note, but with a groan and a moderate amount of sweat and stacked chairs. The lights will come down from the barn rafters. The power cords will be coiled like so many orange snakes. And the space will eventually become bare, reflecting our company’s own transformation back into the pragmatic world of regular life, where our voices are quieter and blended into the great hum of society. Already I can feel the sadness coming.

During the winter, my dreams dance here. In the stories we have not yet told. In the lines we have not yet memorized. In the songs we have not yet sung.

I know the year will pass. It always does, lasting longer than I think possible and simultaneously shorter than I can believe. But it's still never soon enough to return to the love in this place.


In the meanwhile, and on a much less emotional note, I’ll be having a reading of Gracefully Ending at the Our Town Theatre on the 12th of August at 2 PM. Then, in November, I'll be flying down to Tampa, Florida to see the premiere of The Redemption of Rube Moats at Lab Theatre Projects. And I’m very happy to say that I was selected again for a wonderful festival that is near and dear to my heart, so I’ll be in residency for a week in January with some great people working on Extraction. (Sorry I can’t fully disclose yet. Selections haven’t been announced!)

I’m also in pre-draft work on a new full-length that is in monologue form – a first for me – and I’m working through rewrites on several others. Anything to keep the words flowing, really.

And finally, I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to everyone who supports my writing and TOTL. I mean all of you. The people who come to our shows. The businesses, organizations, donors, and good Samaritans who help keep mine and TOTL’s dreams going. My parents and family for being my biggest cheerleaders and my most reliable babysitters. My children for putting up with endless hours of rehearsal. My fellow company members. My playwriting friends. My non-writing friends who still care enough to ask me about my writing. Even my cat. He deserves some thanks. Maybe. And, of course, my wife, who loves me and puts up with me, even though I sometimes get up at 3 AM to write outlines and snippets of dialogue.

And I changed my mind about my cat. He gets zero thanks. I give him cat food and scoop his litter box.

Till the fall.

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