Hi, my name is Peter Murray. I am a scriptwriter and I started this blog as a way of promoting my own writing, which is mostly plays, screenplays and television scripts. bMy background is unique. My father is a retired theater Professor and both my parents acted at The Barnstormers Summer Stock Theatre in Tamworth New Hampshire, which was founded by my Godfather, Francis G. Cleveland, who was the son of President Grover Cleveland. Having all that history within my family and a Godfather who started a theatre, it was natural that I became interested in theater. I attended Johnson State College in Vermont with the specific purpose of becoming an actor. However, scriptwriting took over. I have been writing plays since I was about twelve. I would see a Barnstormer production and say, I can do that. Yes I could do that, but in those early years, not so well. As time went on I became much more proficient with a good ear for dialogue, plot and character development. I have written a few plays. Two were produced in Vermont, a one act for First Night in Burlington called "KIng Stud," and another titled Crossing The Bridge. The latter was also taken to the Barnstormers and done at the professional level with my Dad directing. My other writing includes a few movie scripts. One is a trilogy I am working on called Derby Double. It's an action adventure sports series dealing with Soccer. Another script is called the Third Eye about a metaphysical detective(Currently trying to work that into a television series.) And currently I am working on a television series about my childhood, both here in New Hampshire and England, where I lived for five years. I call this series, "Letters from England." I have five episodes in the can and you can read them here.
The introduction of this episode isn’t just about Ned’s first day at an English School. It’s about the Livingston family first day. Ned’s day starts off on the wrong foot as he meets a bully. Gareth Langmere ends up saving him when they meet for the first time. The incident I wrote happened at Eastergate Primary. I set this up at the Westergate Bus stop. At Eastergate Gareth was not the one who saved my butt,(Although he did make things easier for me when I arrived.) it was an Upper Junior who I became friends with.
The original idea for Gareth was my Football friend at Eastergate. I had a problem with him. I wanted to fit in another character. There was another student I met at Chichester, who was the son of a military officer. His name was Martin Bacon. For a time Martin and I became great friends, by the time I left, Martin and I were still good friends but we had drifted. Like my buddy Christian(Gareth.), he was a class act. I decided to merge the two to create one character. I have many Martin Bacon stories to tell and through Gareth I will tell stories of Martin and Christian, fictitious and truthful.
As we watch all four of the family go through their first day of work, or school, Eileen’s story becomes the most interesting. It will be on her first day that you see a tease of Free Wheeling Frank. This sets you up nfor the Free Wheeling Frank Episode. I have some interesting plans with this story, so stay tuned, Free Wheeling Frank is coming.
As I write this series about two parts of my life, I am struck how when you write something that is semi autobiographical, you change things. Not all happened in these stories and if I was to completely write these stories as they were, then they wouldn’t be as strong. Some would have a hollowness to them and seem incomplete, or seem too short. What I had to do was make the short stories longer and create some stuff that didn’t happen to create something that seemed believable.
Another interesting thing about writing Ned(Who is me or based on me.) is I have played a what if game with him. What if this had happened to me(Ned), rather than the way it happened. What occurs out of some of those situations is a more realistic portrayal of how and adolescent handles himself in a different country. How does he react to English girls as opposed to American girls. How do his parents react to English customs as opposed to American. It’s interesting to play around with the idea of how the English relate to the Livingston’s. The language is a big part of this series for me. American slang is always brought up in front of the English and there is always some sort of translation that goes along with it. The same is true with the English language that must be understood by the American characters.
As usual if you have read the first six episodes I will leave links up so you can read them. If you are new to my series, this will give you a chance to read the series from the beginning. Stay tuned to Episode Eight, season 1 called First Day jitters. This is Ned’s first day in the English school system. I’ve got all kinds of whacky ideas for this.
COMING FEBRUARY 14 A FUNDRAISER FOR THE COPE MURRAY CAMPAIGN.
Pigeons by the Charles written by Peter C. Murray will be broadcast as a ZOOM recorded staged reading.
Cope Murray taught at New England College for 30 years and became a well respected part of the faculty and a favorite among his acting students.
Beginning in 1958, through 2010, Cope’s summer job was acting at The Barnstormers summer stock theatre in Tamworth New Hampshire run by the son of President Grover Cleveland. There he delighted audiences with his range in a wide variety of parts and he had to learn the parts in all of one week. Not an easy accomplishment and certainly not done today, even at The Barnstormers. At the later stage of his Barnstormer career Cope jumped into film, most notably, In the movie “In Bedroom” with Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson. It is now time to honor the Cope with a dressing room in the Putnam Center at the Campus of New England College where he enjoyed teaching. With your help, this fundraiser will help accomplish our goal of $25,000 for the naming right. A large part of the work has already been done by his students, former colleagues, college friends, and the Tamworth community. We are seeking another $16,397.00 to accomplish this goal. We are seeking your help on February 14th by watching a staged reading of Pigeons by The Charles.
As a Playwright Pigeons by The Charles is a work in progress for me. The plot is simple and tried and true. It is a classic boy meets girl play, with some twists and turns along the way. By I telling you a little bit about the play, I won’t be giving much away. I will leave the twists and turns out of the plot.
Kurt Denmark and Julie Alexander meet at Boston University and become friends after a disastrous frat party. They share a love of the Charles and an odd connection with the kit of Pigeons that reside there. Kurt and Julie remain friends through their four years of College and you think maybe these two kids have a chance at love. All is lost when Julie wants to help Kurt move on from his high school sweetheart Charlotte Van Nordstrom. Julie introduces Kurt to her best friend Natalie. Julie realizes her mistake when she suddenly realizes she has feelings for Kurt. She lets him go, thinking Kurt and Natalie have married and she has lost two best friend. Four years later, Kurt and Julie reconnect at the Charles. Kurt did not end up with Natalie after all. The couple re-establishes their friendship and fall in love, but will that love last? How will their friends the Pigeons aid in that process and get them through a turbulent part of their relationship? Yes the Pigeons are a metaphor for what happens here. It may seem like a tired plot, but we have been through such a turbulent part of our history with COVID and the division we have in this country, I felt why not re-establish what we all lost, the hope of coming together and the hope that two people can still find each other and fall in love.
The reading will be recorded and broadcast on Youtube and Linkedin on Valentines Day. The night of the broadcast, there will be some information for you to help donate to The Cope Murray Campaign. You are not obligated to donate, and there is not a set amount to donate, but your support and your word of mouth will allow others to hear about this event and perhaps donations will come from you as a source.
I have talked about my play Pigeons By The Charles which is my third play I have written. I am at a stage where it is time to have the play read. In this time of a pandemic this may seem crazy, but with the innovation of Zoom, it makes this all possible. I am doing two things with this. I am currently using this as a fundraiser for my Dad, who is a retired and well respected theatre professor at New England College in Henniker New Hampshire and an actor at a Summer Stock theatre in Tamworth New Hampshire. If you saw “In the Bedroom,” than you saw the poker scene. The guy with the Baseball cap who recited the poetry is my Dad. I am trying to get my Dad a dressing room named after him at the New England College theatre. The cost of the naming right is $25, 000. I have currently raised, $8,503.00 for this project.
I am currently seeking actors to help me Zoom read this play. I have cast three so far. This is on a first come first served basis. Whoever contacts me before I cast the entire show, you are in. I have posted this on Facebook and my Facebook page the Cope Murray Campaign. I also have massed mailed to a list of actors on my email list. The other place I have posted is to my hometown board, the Tamworth Exchange. I don’t expect to receive many responses from this, but nothing hurts. The play has 3 men and 3 women in it. I am also looking for someone to read the Stage Directions. The three actors I have cast so far are men. So I at least have the men somewhat cast. The person that reads the stage directions does not have to be male or female. I have not determined the time and date yet for this event. I am including a brief rehearsal process so actors can become comfortable reading the script. If you are interested in this, contact me at this email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Say Anything is the ultimate guy gets girl movie. Ah yes Lloyd Dobler (John Cusak.) that slacker guy, who nobody thought would amount to much of anything. Diane Court(Ione Skye) was certainly taken by surprise as much as her Dad James(John Mahoney) disliked this matchup. I like Lloyd because I knew some of these guys in school. Lloyd’s character personifies the type of character I root for. He gets the girl in the end.
I was born in the early sixties. In that era, I discovered TV and a lot of old movies. Casablanca happens to be one favorite. Odd that I chose that, because Humphrey doesn’t get the girl in the end. These were the types of movies I was weaned on. As I hit my teens, my generation was being courted by movie marketing. Yes, the teen movie genre blasted off. Before my era, not many coming of age movies were made. There they were though and we had a whole host of them and our hero always ended up with the happy ending. The Sure Thing(More of a college movie, but what the hell.) Say Anything, Better Off Dead, Some Kind of Wonderful(Girl gets guy here.), and many more. The television shows and movies I watched had those old fashioned themes of the Good Guy wins and he eventually gets the girl.
I am not ashamed to say I am a romantic at heart. If some wish to call me a metrosexual, here’s the barf bag. Hell, I’ll admit it I am and why not, I’m a Taurus. We Taureans are all about the romance thing. This is who I am and I will not apologize for a part of my personality I have embraced and become comfortable in. Part of why I write romantic themed plays or scripts has a lot to do with things that I went through in my own childhood. I was that geeky nerd and shy fellow, who had trouble even talking to himself let alone a girl.
When I first dabbled in script writing, most were plays and a lot were mysteries. I was weaned on The Barnstormers Theatre in Tamworth New Hampshire, where the mystery was king. The summer I first set about writing my own stuff, I counted 6 mysteries that were produced that summer and what did I write? A murder mystery set on a boat. It was horrible.
Later in college, I dabbled in other stuff. One was a dark piece about an incident that happened to me. I needed to write it to let the incident go. I always say writing is cathartic for me, even when I don’t mean it to be. After that I was looking to write something light. I chose the romantic comedy and some of it was teen oriented where the guy gets the girl. I switched to writing movies at this point for this genre.
My first full length play was a romantic comedy called “Crossing The Bridge,” about a screenwriter who is forced to write his next script with a Script Doctor. The conflict? The Script Doctor happens to be the girl he had a crush on in his youth. My second, called “Most Likely To… was not a romantic play, but there were two romances going on in the story. It takes place at a disastrous high school reunion. It entails a mob informant who comes out of the Federal Witness Protection program to his reunion to catch up with the girl he’s always had a crush on. The second romance is a married couple. The Husband is an FBI Agent. He married a girl from his class many years ago. He’s always working and their marriage has taken a real toll as a result. The reunion helps them realize what’s been missing as they work back to each other. My third play, Pigeons By The Charles, is set through a ten to fifteen year stretch. Two friends meet in college years and help each other through their rotten love lives. Suddenly they realize they both really like each other and feelings develop. Eventually they get together in the end after many years, but it is a struggle for them to get there. The One movie I wrote “Derby Double,” is a little more controversial in nature, because I dabble into the IRA conflict. I set it in the 1980’s to make it work, but the two main characters worked together to bring down the IRA and eventually fall in love.
People have accused me in the past, that what I write never happens or why does the guy have to save the girl. Or that the girl is just there as eye candy. The latter I will whole heartedly defend. These are strong women I write as I grew up with two extremely strong female characters in my own home. These women I write don’t take crap and they aren’t looking to be saved. The guy doesn’t always save the girl in my scripts. Sometimes it’s the girl that saves the guy. This happens in my soccer movie Derby Double. Three times the female lead saves the hero from certain death. Then again it helps that she’s an Emma Peale type, which is what I was going for when I created her.
In this tumultuous era we are living in now(Which I hope is changing now.), I think it is time to start bringing these romantic types of movies back. Although the way the arts have taken a hit, I wonder where our movie making is going now or our theatre is going.
I plan on continuing this type of theme when it suits me. Here’s to the guy getting the girl, the hero winning and the happy ending. After four years of unrest, the happy ending movie would be a refreshing change, don’t you think.
As I end this post, I would love to hear your comments on this topic. Drop me a line and let me know how you feel about this. Yes, I am expecting to be chided for my metrosexuality, so be it as Mark from “Pump Up The Volume” would say. By the way he gets the girl in the end too.
I have talked about writers block before. Writers block is the evil little menace that will afflict every writer at some point. You know what I am talking about. You have this brilliant idea and the words (or dialogue in my case) are flowing. The storyline and the characters are great and then suddenly you crash, like a twenty car pile up, you hit that brick wall. You’re stuck and not even a jackhammer can get you through the block.
It’s happened to me numerous times. If an idea comes to me and is any good, I never give up on it. I stick with it. If the wall is built like an impenetrable fortress and I can’t break through then I set the idea aside for a while and work on other things. Eventually something will hit me when I least expect it and I can move forward. That happened last night.
My most recent play (Which will be my fourth.) about Baseball Broadcasting has been sitting on the shelf for two years, waiting for me to blow through the block. The idea is set at WPLM in Portland Maine, the flagship to the Portland Seadogs. (The Red Sox AA farm team.) The play revolves Chick McSorley, a former washed up bombastic Baseball player, who turns to Broadcasting to save his life. Chick is not only bombastic, no one likes him and he is a drunk. Chick was the reason I came up with this idea. The character came to me one night while having a strange dream about my radio days.
Last night, I broke through that wall and saw “Play By Play,” in a new light, while watching a British show on Netflix called “Lovesick.” My focus turned to “Play By Play,” when I was watching this one particular actress named Hannah Britland. She plays a key character in Lovesick. As I am watching her I couldn’t help but think that if I were directing “Play By Play”, she would be perfect for the female lead Abby Rollins. After the show was over, I couldn’t get my mind out of “Play By Play”. I began to go over what I had written. I wanted to know why I couldn’t break through the block.
I realized I had overcomplicated my play. There were too many things going on. At the end of Act One, Chick meets his new play by play guy, named Marty Busby, a young broadcaster trying to get his first break. My original plan was to have Abby become the producer of the games and help Marty improve his Baseball Broadcasting skills. That’s where the love story would have come in. Then like that, it hit me. “Wait,” I asked myself, “is Marty really needed? Isn’t this just another one of those tired stories, where a guy’s career is kick started by the woman he loves. I wasn’t giving Abby enough credit. I put her in a thankless receptionist job who is promoted to broadcast producer of sports. No, I didn’t want that for her.
It took me five minutes before a different story became clear. Abby(Whose name might change.) is going to be Chick’s play by play partner. Not only that, she’s his long lost daughter from a one night stand Chick had in the minors. Chick has never met her.
I have added another wrinkle now. In the play I keep mentioning this bonus baby pitcher named Bobby Robertson. I talk about him, but my plan was not to make him a character. Now, he is, which creates another interesting idea for the second story in the play. I am fully set to move forward with this play, once I rework the outline.
As writers, ideas hit us at the strangest times and it’s one of the beauties of it. An idea will come to you when you’re in the woods going for a walk, or when you are reading a book, or in my case through dreams or watching a simple little romantic comedy show called “Lovesick.” If you’re a writer and you’re blocked, don’t give up on the idea. I suggest putting the idea down and when you least expect it, something profound will hit you that will solve your block.
One of my fascinations has always been history. When I grew up for five years of my life in England, my family and I had our own smorgasbord of history. From the great Norman castle of Arundel Castle to Longleet House with it’s incredible animal preserves. In school, I excelled in history and was fortunate enough to have Gary Millen as my history teacher at Kennett High School. He taught history like it was an event. It was and he showed us how history binds us all.
When I started to read the series Etched in Granite, I was taken back to post civil war New Hampshire, and interesting to note that history was in my own back yard. This was a history I never knew. In the first book in Mj Pettengill’s historical fiction novel Etched in Granite I learned about the many poorhouses in Carroll County. This one concentrated on Ossipee’s County Farm. It wasn’t until I was speaking to the chair of the Tamworth History Center, that I discovered a poorhouse just up the road from me in my own home town of Tamworth New Hamsphire. Reading Mj’s first book, I learned about the hardships the poor went through to keep the family farm and some circumstances that occurred that brought many to those poorhouses. The poor were treated inhumanely back in those times. After they died in those they were buried in unmarked graves. At the end of the first book, Mj honors those people in those unmarked graves by giving them their dignity back and providing the numbered graves with the names of those people who died at the Ossipee County Farm. You come away from the first book thinking that no matter a person’s circumstance in life, we are all living on this same planet and must treat the less unfortunate as we would want to be treated. Give each person a humanity and we are all happy.
I find Mj’s series is important. These are stories that need to be told so that we can learn from our past and not make the same mistakes.
Book two, Angels Lament, follows the other part of the Hodgdon family. We are given a look into the life of Abigail Hodgdon’s sister Sarah. She has a musical talent. Her cornet is her lifeblood. She dreams of a better life for herself out of Ossipee. The farming life is not the life she wants. She moves down to Fall River Mass, where she finds the life of the big city is not what she had envisioned. She gets herself a job at the Mill and we learn that life at these Mills is just as harsh as landing up at a poorhouse. Her cornet is her only salvation.
I found as I was reading Sarah’s story that I was learning about a world, that was not too dissimilar to anything that Charles Dickens would write. The poor is once again our main focal point here. Once again Mj, weaves these new characters into one another. Each chapter as in her first book, is a day in the life of these characters. With each heading of the Chapter providing you with a date.
I was most struck by August Wood and his friend Finn, who he calls his brother, because he saw good in him and wanted to help. These two characters give you the flavor of a Dickens novel. They come from poor backgrounds. August lived in the Five Points of New York. I’ve read a little and have seen the movie The Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese. That was a harsh world. August is taken in by a man named Smitty and is forced to beg for. Smitty is our Fagen from Oliver so to speak.
The story of how August and Sarah meet and what happens to them along the way takes us into a world where you are forced to survive by any means possible. Mj, paints a picture, of a stark realism of the times. As I did with Abigail and Silas Putnam in Etched in Granite, you pull for these characters. They are good hearted people and you want to see them succeed. It doesn’t always work out that way.
There is a subplot which merges into the Sarah and August’s story. We are brought into the world of the wealthy. Bess Adams is the woman’s name. The Father doesn’t say much and is one of the benefactors of the mill. He doesn’t care about what happens to the people that work for him, only the bottom line.
The Mother has a contentious relationship with Bess. She is always worried about etiquette and keeping up good appearances so that Bess will attract the right sort of wealthy suitor. There are many parts of Bess’ mother I found strikingly familiar. In one chapter, Bess talks about how her mother was a stickler on letter writing. Everything had to be perfect, otherwise, the letter was thrown in the fire and Bess had to start again. The Mother encourages one of Bess’s passions and that is her piano. Her mother uses Bess’s talent as a way to showcase her to wealthy families. This portion of Bess’s life becomes the merging point with Sarah and August. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend this read, by Mj Pettengill. A gifted, intuitive writer who senses and sees light when others have lost hope. An Angels Lament can be purchased at her website mjpettengill.com. I would also be remiss if I did not send her to her website. There is far more than a writer here. Her blog posts will
I have been away for the last two weeks dealing with some priorities to Pigeons By Charles. Hopefully I will have some news on that soon. However, I am back. Look to this space for Episode Seven of the First season of Letters From England. It is called the Tank. This episode concerns our first car in England. Currently, I have been working through Act two today. I am hoping when I am done with this episode and you take the time to read it, you will be in stitches. My aim is to make you laugh with that. Other episodes are on the way. First Day Jitters and yes the long-awaited episode I have teased called Free Wheeling Frank. My mom will be very prominent in that.
I am sitting here on this rainy day and reflecting about the last blog I wrote, which dealt with how writing is Cathartic with me. I realized that I had more to say on this topic and decided a part two was in order. Part two is called mental illness.
I don’t often use my blog to discuss my personal life. By allowing you to read Letters From England, episode by episode, I have made my past an open book. Ned Livingston is based on me, but he’s an older me and many aspects me. It is more or less a composite of myself. The same can be said of Ned’s family. Some of the stories are me and of my family.
When you write a television series, you write the pilot and hope the pilot moves you through to the next process. I’ve gone about this differently. I had the whole arc in my head early. I could have written the spec script and pushed to sell and let Hollywood come up with the arc. Nope, I needed to write the series on my own. Why? Two reasons. I wanted to delve into the history of my life so I can bring some healing to my family that has been so touched by mental illness. Secondly, I wanted this series to be a way to talk about mental illness. My mom had mental illness. She had five nervous breakdowns in her life. The first one was with electric shock therapy when that was a common treatment for the issue. After years of not understanding it, or not being able cope with the mood swings, I healed myself with therapy. What got me to therapy was a book my mother gave me one Christmas, called the Temple of Gold. The lead character is a young boy named Ray Trevitt. As we watch Ray grow up from a small kid into adolescence and then into a man, we watch him change. Each time there is a tragedy in his life his emotional stability tears little by little until finally he has a nervous breakdown at the end of the book.
The first time I read this book, I absolutely loved this. This book remains my favorite book of all time. William Goldman, the famous Hollywood screenwriter responsible for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, wrote this. I am not sure why it has never been made into a movie. I have been dying to write the script. I think I can do this justice.
The first time I read this book, I had no idea why my mother thought I would like this. She had never given me a book about adolescence. Although my Mom was a voracious reader, she never was prone to buying a book for me for Christmas. That Christmas she did.
I lost the book in high school when I lent it to someone I worked with at the Tamworth Inn. I kept reminding her to she had it and I would like the book back. Imagine my surprise when I found it on sale at the Cook Memorial Library. I was with my mother at the time. The person must have given it to the library to sell. I snapped it up and took it back to Vermont. I had to read it again.
The second time I read Temple of Gold, I found my mother’s hidden message in the book. The message arrives when Ray dates this interesting girl in College. She hums after they make love and doesn’t talk much. She puts demands on Ray that are difficult for him. One is to end a friendship with a girl he met at college. Ray becomes infatuated with her, even though his friends are telling him, he should stay away. This girl ends up cheating on him with a college professor and the breakup is horrible. What happens to this girl and what Ray does is horrible, in the end Ray feels horribly guilty about what he does. When I read this portion of the book my mother was trying to relate what mental illness was like for her. My mother was trying to tell me she related to this girl. She wanted me to see inside her and realize this is the way she was. It wasn’t her fault and that if she acted irrationally towards me, that part of her was not the real woman, who cared about her son so deeply. She was crying for me to understand her. I got the message.
The second read of Temple of Gold, brought me to therapy. I needed to understand her, so I could heal and understand what other family members were going through. It affected them just as badly, particularly my sister. I began to empathize with my mom, who although strong, had to fight to get through every day of her life. Most people don’t understand when someone is mentally ill. They think that if they can’t handle life and have a mental breakdown that person is weak. No not at all. My mother had five nervous breakdowns and each and every time she came back better than she was before. My mother was so strong and both my sister and I received our strength, by watching how she handled her mental illness. She still acted, she still enjoyed her gardening and stamps. She remained involved in the community of Tamworth, whether it be Cook Memorial library, or her Onway club. When others suffered the same affliction she did, my mother gave back in a selfless way.
I have a story in my head about how she helped others with mental illness. The real story has changed in my head. The real story involves an NEC student who lived in the apartment at Nyton Cottage. She was a friendly girl and my sister and I would visit her from time to time. We did not realize what was going on with her. She burned incense in her living room and the lights were always dimly lit. She had a huge picture of Jesus Christ before her and was praying a lot. That seemed normal to us, little did we know that this girl wasn’t dealing with life well. As I became interested in Psychology, I realized she had the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
One night the damn broke for this girl in our house. My Dad called the college who informed her parents. She had to be taken for treatment in Chichester England. I don’t remember how long she was there. My mother had walked in her shoes and reached out almost every day, she was in the sanitarium. She was there to let her know, she was going to be all right.
Another time, we had a good friend of the family. She was in the latter stages of her life and she was going through depression. My mom loved this woman, she reached out to her and was there to be that ear. That was the type of woman my mother was. Another story is a lifelong Barnstormer actor’s brother died during the season. My family and his were very close. When it happened, my mom looked at me and said, we need to be with Dan tonight. I readily agreed. We spent that evening with Dan and we listened to him talk about his brother and what he meant to him. Despite my mother’s frailties of mind, this is who my mother was. I learned many of those skills from watching her.
In Letters from England, my mother’s storyline will reflect this mental illness. I need to write this for myself and to speak out. Sure, medical science has come a long way in this area. We no longer give lobotomies like they did in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The drugs have gotten better, but these drugs cost far too much for people to take, leaving many people to suffer and be put out on the street. I won’t get into the political debate over this health issue, but it has been deeply affected by politics.
My purpose for my mother’s story line is to give a voice to the mentally ill, so that people will understand what they go through. I am sure there are many more families like mine, who have kept mental illness in the closet. I no longer am silent about this. It’s time to for this country to understand it and how it affects society. It’s time be much more compassionate and open minded. My mother didn’t have that voice, now I am speaking for her even though she passed away in 2015. I owe that gift to my mother. As I sit here writing this, I feel her presence over my shoulder watching as I tell her story. I feel her pride, her warm touch upon my shoulder. I see that smile(Which for the most part was not there.)
You may think that living with a parent who had mental illness was a living hell. Actually it was not. It became difficult, when a breakdown was imminent. If I had known then what I know now, I would have been better prepared for it. I reflect upon my life with my mother and more often than not, there are more good times than bad.
These are the times I remember. The time when we went to my dentist in Boston. After a good orthodontia checkup she treated me to the King Tut exhibit at the Boston Museum of art. Afterwards we were caught in the rain trying to make the bus, the two of us laughing our heads off. That was my mother at her best. The time when I came to my mother about something pretty deep. We were watching the miniseries the Holocaust with Meryl Streep and James Woods. The series had me asking questions. I brought them to my mother. I wanted to know why Nazi Germany hated the Jews, because it didn’t seem right how one group of people dehumanized another. I thought aren’t we supposed to love everyone in this world. I couldn’t fathom how one man bred hate into an entire country. However, he did, but to understand Hitler you must look inside the mental illness that ravaged him. My mother understood that man’s illness, because she had mental illness. The difference was how the two handled the disease. My mother and I talked for hours about the Holocaust. It was the most fascinating intense conversation I ever had with my mom and one I will never forget, because through her I learned so much. She then provided me with some books to read in our very own library.
I remember the time when my mom and I rented John Hughes Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy. My mother rarely laughed, but this movie sent her into convulsions of laughter and seeing that from her brought me to laughter and such joy. When I did my top 100 movie list of all time, it made the list, just because it was such an experience to watch that with my mother.
Those are the moments I remember and reflect upon with my mom that I treasure. In life, you have to take the bad with the good. In my case with my mother, there was a lot more good than bad. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of and scared of. I want to reflect that with my mom’s story arc. Was my mom frightened when it happened, hell yes, but she was strong and faced it head-on. She dealt with it, took the blows, and got back up to her feet like a prizefighter would. As I continue to write my mother’s story arc, I don’t seek pity upon Eileen Livingston, god knows my mother would never ask for it. All I want you to do is understand that mental illness is a disease like any other and it needs to be understood and society needs to open their mind, reach out, and show some compassion. That’s all my mother was asking.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I am slowly learning never to question when something doesn’t go my own way or when something needs to change. Within the last few days I am listening to what’s going on around me. I have come out of the dark and into the light. I am also a firm believer that the cup is always have full and never half empty. Sometimes I look at it as being full and the possibilities are endless.
One of the reasons I write is because it is a cathartic exercise. I have a tendency to use things in my life. I don’t do that deliberately, but if I need to strengthen a story it has always served me well to find something from my past. This is where I believe acting and writing are two similar disciplines. Actors often use things in their lives to reach an emotional moment or to achieve that emotional moment on stage to make it real. Writers do the same for different reasons.
For many years I’ve been holding onto something. Like a hoarder I always felt I needed this part of my past. I wasn’t sure why, but it was hard to let this go. Sometimes I stuffed it away and never looked at it. Then it would magically pop out of the box and I wanted to be near it again, because the memories from it were strong. One day I realized I should let this thing go. From an emotional level, I didn’t. I kept it in a box and didn’t look at it for seventeen years. I never wanted to, examine why it was there because this part of my past was too painful.
The last few years have been a slow journey to examine my past. I needed to look at it, because I needed to explore the past and understand why it was not important to me anymore. This part of my life was holding me back. It was stuck to me like glue and I could not find a way of becoming unstuck.
As I said writing can be cathartic. I held onto a piece of my writing very much like part of my past. The message from this work was powerful. For years I had chopped and changed this show to find out where it was going. As this writing evolved I began to recognize what this was. I had no idea why two characters seemed so familiar to me. They certainly weren’t anyone I knew. However the story was very recognizable. The first half of it was true. The second half was what I had hoped it might have become. It didn’t turn out the way my play ended. The message suddenly became clear. Everything happens for a reason. Why this play at this time? Why the need to work on this again? I was not done with this yet. I reached out to this part of my life. That part of my life did not respond, but I found I was okay with that. I needed to learn a lesson and I needed to start a new chapter in my life, which had been evolving slowly for some time. I liked the pace of this new chapter. It wasn’t moving at the speed of light. This new chapter has been gentle. I have nurtured it and let it grow. Now this chapter has come to a new stage. I am not forcing myself to look at the ending, I just want to enjoy the possibilities and where this chapter could lead. Everything happens for a reason and this new chapter I’ve started is leading me somewhere. I am unaware of it’s travelogue. At this moment in my life, that’s okay, what will be will be.
Not all my writing is cathartic. Not all of it is taken from my past. Not every character is based on people I know, or did know, but this piece was and I came back to it, to let that part of my past go.