This look back comes as the US has just reported more than 200,000 deaths from the virus. Which is far more than I would have hoped six months ago, but the politicization of the public health response ended up making things worse in ways I wouldn't have predicted.
My own family has not yet contracted the virus, though quite a number of my friends have not been so lucky. We lost a family friend to the coronavirus this spring, and just this week, Bryan Fonseca, a director friend in Indianapolis, died from the virus. In our house, we've been fortunate that my wife's job at MIT has been steady (and she can work from home), which is important since we depend on it to pay our bills and provide healthcare. My 20-year-old son with a disability lost his part-time job as a classroom helper, and my 25-year-old daughter finished her Master's degree in psychology online in May and now has moved back home as she looks for full-time work. Though she worked part-time while she was a graduate student in Florida, she's never been able to collect unemployment from Florida.
As for my writing life, there have been quite a series of losses, but also a few gains, too. This has been a devastating time for the entire theatre sector, as well as the museum field, with in-person performances still not viable, and uncertainty making planning and predicting the resumption of our business a nearly impossible task.
- My play Mox Nox, which I've been working on with the Brown Box Theatre Project since 2017 was scheduled for an 11-stop, 14-performance tour in May and June and I was going to go with them. That show has been rescheduled for May of 2021. They had already built the set in Maryland and costume design was in progress, and we were able to start rehearsals.
- Beloved Island: Windows on Campobello was a new site-specific play set in FDR's summer cottage on Campobello Island, in New Brunswick, Canada. Fortunately, the Roosevelt-Campobello Park supported me in completing the commission, so the script is now complete. But the two-week run on the shores of the Bay of Fundy (I was going to be in residence for the run!), had to be postponed. Right now we're hoping for August 2021.
- Blood on the Snow. This popular Boston site-specific play was set to return to the Old State House for a month-long Equity run, reuniting much of the original cast, in the year marking the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre. Originally, I thought the October run would be safe, since things would surely be under control by then. But it became increasingly clear that cramming an audience of 56 into a small room with ten actors was not a safe plan. The show has been canceled for now, though I have hopes it will be back someday.
- Moonlight Abolitionists. This is a one-act play written to be performed under the full moon at Mount Auburn Cemetery, created as part of my residency there. We had two possible performance windows this fall, and I thought it might be possible to make it happen under social-distancing guidelines, but then numbers started to creep up in Massachusetts, so we decided to pull the plug. Our next available moon/weather/darkness window (it takes a lot of calculations to plan this show) is end of April 2021, so we'll see what the world is like then.
- At the start of March, I had just put together a contract for a new commission with a small historical theatre operation, plus they were going to tour another of my plays. The pandemic put a hold on both of those plans.
- I was also talking to an institution about a possible staff job, that could have made an interesting impact on my writing, the field, and been a boost to my family (regular paycheck), but now many museums have laid off half of theirs staffs (or more), so that possibility is likely gone.
- I'd contracted to write the screenplay for an independent historical feature film. We'd actually signed the contract in 2019, but they'd had trouble raising the necessary funds. I received a call while walking on a frozen lake in Grand Lake, Colorado, while at the National Winter Playwrights Retreat in March, that the producer found the money to go ahead. I've written a number of film scripts over the years, but this seemed like one that might actually get made. The pandemic dried up the funding and logistics and the producer finally pulled the plug last week.
- My company, Plays in Place, contracted with Revolutionary Spaces (who got me started in the museum world) to commission and produce a new short play about Crispus Attucks at the Old South Meeting House. The good news is that we were able to commission playwright Miranda ADEkoje to write a fabulous one-act play. The original plan was to have the script finished in mid-spring and have a run of nearly 180 performances for site visitors over the summer and fall. The script now has a great draft, but the production will have to wait for us to be able to gather audiences safely indoors.
- In a typical year, I normally pick up a few small productions here and there, plus get at least 20 school productions of my short plays. Those mostly can't happen now.
- Revolutionary Spaces has commissioned me to write a big new site-specific play designed to be performed at Boston's Old South Meeting House. I'm deep into the research right now and hope to start writing next month, with the goal of having a first draft by the end of the year. It's a very challenging and exciting project, and I so appreciate their support and confidence in me and my writing.
- The Huntington Theatre Company commissioned me to write a short audio play for their Dream Boston series. I got to work with a fantastic director, Roz Bevan, and two terrific actors, Omar Robinson (who was in my play Fire on Earth, years ago) and Rachel Cognata. My episode will stream starting on October 21.
- Mount Auburn Cemetery worked with me to published a new book that collects all the plays I wrote for my residency: The Mount Auburn Plays. It's a gorgeous little paperback with photos from last year's productions and reflections by the actors and director (and me). Took a lot of work, but I'm excited to have a tangible reminder of this project. We have a virtual book launch planned for 6pm on September 30.
- I'm finalizing a contract for Phase 1 research work on a series of three new site-specific plays for the National Park Service in Boston. This is a deal we've been talking about for more than a year, and I'm extremely grateful that the pandemic has not derailed this project.
- I did a small adaptation commission for New Rep in Boston and hope to have small project coming up with The Lyric Stage Company. A bunch of my short plays got virtual performances or filming: Santa's Dolphins with Wheelock Family Theatre for the Boston Theater Marathon; Beatrix Potter Must Die! was filmed by Cherie Julander for the Hive Collaborative competition, Ms. Claus got a fun zoom performance from Theatre Three on Long Island, and Santa's Dolphins got an audio version from One Night Stand in Colorado.