Sam is standing in line at the grocery store with his grandson when an incident sparks a memory, and Sam is stunned as he watches the Food Lion transform into the haunting landscape of Auschwitz he escaped seventy years ago.
Narrator: Hannah Ehman
Sam: Sean Ballantyne
Buddy/Mr. Lockekt: Steve Rizzo
David/Mr. Elby: Allan Michael
Child/Intercom Voice/Cashier & 1: Kyana Teresa
My father served in the military and was also an archaeologist. Wherever he was stationed, he always found his way to historic sites in the area, and I always found myself in the middle of one of his adventures, digging in the dirt for clues about humanity. My father never simply pulled an object out of the ground. Each piece had a story and a reason for being there. The artifacts that didn’t immediately have a story were the best. These mysteries required the team to dig deeper for understanding, until the full story unfolded about the person it belonged to, the history of how that person got there, and perhaps, why she disappeared. When all the pieces were assembled, a fuller picture of a people and a time emerge, and we come to understand it better.
As a young adult in the 1990s, I met a playwright and director of a new form of theater emerging across the country, which utilized true community stories. Around these artifacts, an original script is written. These plays engage not trained actors, but community members who carry these stories in their bones. What these two artists were doing felt so familiar. I began working with Jo Carson and Richard Owen Geer, first as an apprentice in this style of writing and directing, and then as a partner and playwright with the company. The experience led me to develop over forty original stage plays over the last twenty years, all based on true oral stories I collected in town large and small around the country, and even abroad. I also created a creative non-fiction radio show airing on the local NPR station (WETS) now in its eleventh season.
As a community performance writer, I find myself still searching for clues about humanity. Now, instead of digging in dirt, I excavate stories from living people. Extraordinary stories of ordinary lives form the basis of my performative pieces, either as stage plays or radio scripts, as a way for the community to examine its many different facets. Community members get to stand in each other’s places, reflect on their shared humanity, celebrate their diversity, understand each other’s hardships, and perhaps discover hidden stories about their neighbors and family, all to build a stronger community now. This is necessary art. I like to imagine the possibilities if we are able to work together in better understanding while we are all still alive, instead of waiting for others to discover what our potential might have been, when we are nothing more than bits and pieces dug up by someone in a future generation.