blackbirdonline journalSpring 2015  v14n1

Playwright’s Introduction to A Blessed Unrest

spacer Firehouse Theatre Project

This play has a special place in my heart. It was inspired by my cousin, Michael, who was in a car accident almost twenty years ago and lost the use of his arms and legs. He had been a very active guy, had three kids, a job that kept him traveling. My favorite memory of him was always that he was the last one off the dance floor at weddings. One day, after the accident, he gave me an envelope filled with personal romantic letters from his rehab nurse. He wanted me to do something with them. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to write another sad story about a quadriplegic. Then I began to see a man dancing in his wheelchair, and I remembered the quote that I hand out to my students every year on the last day of school. The Letter from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille has always inspired me to continue writing; I thought maybe it would inspire my main character to dance again after losing his confidence, along with the use of his limbs.

Although my cousin inspired A Blessed Unrest, its story is a complete fiction. My cousin wasn’t a dancer, but the main character in my play, Jacob, is. While at the rehab center, Jacob and Patience, his rehab nurse, fall for each other. The problem is that she is married and he doesn’t feel that he can be there for anyone, least of all the people he loves. He loses hope and the desire to live. Patience tries to convince him that he will dance again and tries to give him hope to no avail. Then the ghost of the iconic dancer and teacher, Martha Graham, haunts him, begging him to dance again. Not until he realizes what he does have can he let go of what doesn’t work for him anymore. A Blessed Unrest is a story about life-sustaining passion.

Unfortunately, my cousin passed away in 2012, but I have a feeling he will haunt the stage wherever this is performed. I know he was very pleased with the script. I’m happy that he was able to be around for the reading stage. I think knowing that something good did come from all his pain made him smile. I hope it makes many more people smile. Many, many more.

Blackbird’s Notes

A Blessed Unrest comes to Blackbird via the Richmond-based Firehouse Theatre Project’s Festival of New American Plays, where it was named the best play of the 2014 competition. From the Firehouse Theatre website: “In keeping with the Firehouse Theatre’s mission of promoting new work by American artists, the Festival of New American Plays began in 2002 as a way to encourage and incubate new plays by established and emerging playwrights in the United States. It has become a grassroots event with substantial involvement from the community, as hundreds of scripts submitted to the Playwriting Contest from all over the country are read by volunteer readers from the Greater-Richmond area. Each script is read twice (more if it needs a tiebreaker), and scripts with ‘two thumbs up’ are passed on for further evaluation to an expert panel of judges, who then pick two finalists for a four-night Festival ‘showdown.’ Members of the festival audience who have seen staged readings of both finalists’ work cast a vote for their favorite play, and the winner of the festival is chosen by the public. Festival winners receive cash prizes.”

A Blessed Unrest was also a finalist for the 2013 O’Neill Playwrights Conference and had staged readings with NOW Theatre Company and Passage Theatre in 2012.  bug

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