Four shows down, four more to go! Right now, I’m on a three-day break and it is glorious.

Sunday afternoon, I came home from the theater, showered, cracked open a hard cider and then sat on the sofa with my husband for the next three hours watching a tennis documentary and eating popcorn, sheer bliss. Monday, I went to kickboxing, picked raspberries, emptied the dish drainer, watered plants, made granola, listened to a podcast, tended my cheeses, showered, made myself an iced coffee, did some writing, and talked to my mom on the phone. 

My mother is the only reason my family didn’t starve last week. Twice, she brought us meals.

Not only was I in tech and daily final rehearsals, my younger son was in the final week of his three-week theatre intensive which culminated in four performances of The Addams Family, only one of which I got to see. Most of the actors were double-cast; in the show I attended, he played Mal. I missed his Lurch performance…

But I heard he was great!

And then, as if all that theater wasn’t enough, my husband threw out his back. 

Way to steal the spotlight, bubs.

I was actually a little bit terrified it was a slipped disk or worse, but turns out it was only a deeply pulled muscle. (It was so deep that he couldn’t feel it spasming, but when I ran my fingers over the spot, the muscle felt like it was wrapped in tiny bubble wrap, eek!)

So then he was pretty much out of commission for a few days, pumped up on steroids and muscle relaxants and heating pads and utterly worthless to the rest of us in our moment of need. Fun times! (He’s still moving gingerly and can’t, or shouldn’t, pick up anything heavier than a gallon of milk, but even though he’s much improved, he’s still a few weeks out from being back to normal.) 

But I digress. Back to the play. And my mom.

That woman single-handedly saved our sorry, immobilized, and scatterbrained butts with a plethora of real food: buttered green beans, blueberry cream cake, gazpacho, cornbread muffins, chicken and rice, fresh tomatoes, etc. And so we lived to tell the tale!

But what to say about the show? I’m still not sure.

photo credit: Tiffany Showalter Photography

This is the most demanding role I’ve ever had — memorization, content, stamina, everything (not that I’ve had that many roles, but still) — but it’s too soon for me to process all that just yet.

For now, a few highlights about the show itself. 

photo credit: Tiffany Showalter Photography

The script is incredible: rich, tightly woven, and honest. I make new discoveries daily, and the more I run the show, the more I fall in love with it. I am not Cheryl Strayed (obviously, I know, but it bears repeating), and she and I are vastly different people with vastly different life experiences. Yet she’s somehow managed to write the specifics of her particular story in such a way that I can resonate with it, deeply

The play’s development* has been a collaborative effort. When we started rehearsals, our director had a vision — Sugar in the bubble of her office surrounded by letter writers — but not much else. Together, we crafted each scene, constructing the rules as we went. (For example, the letter writers never look at Sugar except for when they are in Sugar’s memories.) While Sugar is at the center of the stage and everything revolves around her, it’s the letter writers that pull the play forward. They are the glue, the color, the inspiration for it all. 

One of my favorite things about the show is its simplicity. Just a small office and a writer, and then the other actors shape-shifting between letter writers, memories, Cheryl’s thoughts, and Cheryl herself. The whole vibe is understated — austere almost — and yet cozy. And that same simplicity is paralleled in the text. The words are so ordinary, pared down to almost nothing, and yet they’re very much alive, so real, so true

photo credit: Tiffany Showalter Photography

When I’m in a play, I get so deeply wrapped up inside it that I lose all perspective. I have no idea it will be perceived. The line between funny and sad blurs. Is the story entertaining or boring? Challenging or upsetting? Depressing or uplifting? I know it’s a play for adults — definitely not children — but would teens enjoy it? I have no idea.

The audience response has been overwhelming. A few of the comments I’ve heard and/or read include “a firehose of emotions,” “a gut-punch,” “moving and unexpected,” and an “absolute wrecking ball of a play.” But what’s surprised me most has been the gratitude. Normally after a play people say “good job” or “congratulations” or some other version of a celebratory high-five. This time, though, people are saying thank you. And it’s not just people who know me or who feel obligated to say something. People I don’t know well, or don’t know at all, have gone out of their way to speak to me afterward in the lobby or contact me on Facebook. It’s humbling.

There’s something about this play that gets at the core of what it means to be human. That I get to be part of a group that’s putting this story out into the world feels special. Sacred, almost.  

I am grateful. 


The last four shows are this Thursday (pay what you will), Friday, and Saturday (followed by a talkback) at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3:00pm. Tickets are sold here.

*A reporter attended one of our rehearsals and then wrote about it.

This same time, years previous: eight fun things, chocolate milk, almond apricot pound cake, breaking horses, the quotidian (8.13.18), the quotidian (8.14.17), on getting lucky, knowing my questions, not your typical back-to-school post, a piece of heaven, washing machine worship and other miscellany.


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