Eight days until PANTHER HOLLOW!

There are a million reasons to go see “Panther Hollow” at Luna Stage next Friday, December 15th. But let me narrow it down a little, spacing them out between now and then. First of all, there’s this drawing by Ian August – PH - Cognitive Triad

Playwright Ian August is also a damn fine cartoonist and his pencil scratchings are all over the show. It’s a bonus! Come for the show, stay for the artwork.

But what is PANTHER HOLLOW about I hear you cry? I’m gonna let the incomparable Scott Sickles – playwright and three-time Emmy nominee for his work on General Hospital – tell you in his own words:

As profound as it is funny, David Lee White’s PANTHER HOLLOW is an intimately personal tale that should be experienced by everybody. An account of the playwright/performer’s first salvos in his battle against clinical depression, the piece sheds light on a condition people still seem to think happens in a vacuum. Even Mr. White’s younger self wonders why he feels down in the dumps “for no reason.” But there is a reason. “You have an illness.” It’s a very thorough illness, too. At best, one becomes doubtful, anxious, and mopey. At worst, one finds oneself with a rope around one’s neck or staring down from a bridge into the abyss. Again, there is a reason: your brain is essentially trying to kill you.

But this is no medical travelog. White takes us back in time to early 1990’s college life in Pittsburgh. You can practically see, feel and smell his old neighborhood as he describes the awkward, uncertain, hilarious, grisly, and emotionally (and physically) naked events on his quest to find health, happiness, and even love. We get a mind’s-eye view into his dreams, anxieties, and youthfully questionable decision making process. There are even a few moments where we the audience wince with regret at decisions he’s about to make 20 years ago. It’s these moments among others that imbue the darkness of the subject and story with much, much laughter.

As a performer, Mr. White commands the stage with the same energy, wit, ease and charm that he had when he was actually in his early twenties. PANTHER HOLLOW feels like an entry in your best friend’s diary that you weren’t supposed to read, but now that you have, you need to share it with another friend whose life literally depends on hearing it. The lessons it teaches are crucial for anyone who has experienced or knows someone who has undergone this struggle. It’s also entertaining as all get out! – Scott Sickles, Writers Guild Award winner and three-time Emmy Award nominee

Got it? Good. For tickets, go to http://www.lunastage.org. See you next Friday!

 

Panther Hollow at Luna Stage!

PH luna ad

Hello, friends.

I’m doing my show solo show “Panther Hollow” at Luna Stage on 12/15 at 8:00 PM.

“Panther Hollow” is the show I’ve been performing for a few years now. It’s a comedy, believe it or not, about coping with clinical depression (Good Times!). It’s been performed at the United Solo Festival, Passage Theatre, Dreamcatcher Rep, The Arcade Comedy Theatre, Point Park College, and the front seat of my car.

“I haven’t seen the show, David? What’s it about?”

I’m glad you asked!

Storyteller and monologuist David Lee White details his struggle with love, sex and clinical depression at age 25 while living in a one hundred year old house in Pittsburgh’s hidden neighborhood, Panther Hollow.

“Sounds great, David! But does anyone famous have anything nice to say about it?”

Why sure they do!

“What makes David show so unique, and his show so compelling, is his honesty. He’s such a good writer.  I laughed 44 times and cried twice.  The perfect solo show ratio. Corpses…dead bodies…. depression…suicide – subjects that are tough to pull off but David does because his humor is so self–deprecating, and so honest.  Most importantly, for a solo performer, he’s a really likable guy.  Panther Hollow is a personal story of imperfect humanity perfectly told.”Lauren Weedman, HBO’s “Looking,” “Hung,” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Award winning solo performer and creator of the solo show “Bust.”

“David Lee White’s solo piece PANTHER HOLLOW USA tapestry of hilarious and poignant stories (among them a bout with depression, a group called “Teens For Christ,” and White stalking the author of Prozac Nation). White is an engaging storyteller, who’s expressive and a lot of fun to watch.” Nancy Giles, Commentator, CBS News Sunday Morning

David’s take on depression and suicide will have you laughing in the aisles and crying in your soul. Panther Hollow is a deeply personal work of bravery, joy and honesty. A truly inspirational tale that does what the best theatre can, showing that we are all human and even the deepest wounds can be healed. Better than CATS, better than ET.Robert Carr, Director of Programs and Services, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance

As profound as it is funny, David Lee White’s PANTHER HOLLOW is an intimately personal tale that should be experienced by everybody. An account of the playwright/performer’s first salvos in his battle against clinical depression, the piece sheds light on a condition people still seem to think happens in a vacuum. Even Mr. White’s younger self wonders why he feels down in the dumps “for no reason.” But there is a reason. “You have an illness.” It’s a very thorough illness, too. At best, one becomes doubtful, anxious, and mopey. At worst, one finds oneself with a rope around one’s neck or staring down from a bridge into the abyss. Again, there is a reason: your brain is essentially trying to kill you.

But this is no medical travelog. White takes us back in time to early 1990’s college life in Pittsburgh. You can practically see, feel and smell his old neighborhood as he describes the awkward, uncertain, hilarious, grisly, and emotionally (and physically) naked events on his quest to find health, happiness, and even love. We get a mind’s-eye view into his dreams, anxieties, and youthfully questionable decision making process. There are even a few moments where we the audience wince with regret at decisions he’s about to make 20 years ago. It’s these moments among others that imbue the darkness of the subject and story with much, much laughter.

As a performer, Mr. White commands the stage with the same energy, wit, ease and charm that he had when he was actually in his early twenties. PANTHER HOLLOW feels like an entry in your best friend’s diary that you weren’t supposed to read, but now that you have, you need to share it with another friend whose life literally depends on hearing it. The lessons it teaches are crucial for anyone who has experienced or knows someone who has undergone this struggle. It’s also entertaining as all get out! – Scott Sickles, Writers Guild Award winner and three-time Emmy Award nominee

That was a long post. Thank you for reading this far. And thank you for helping me get the word out there. Thank you, again, for just being you.

D.

Rodney Gilbert

A couple of days ago I decided I was fed-up with the Facebook/Twitter rage machine and was going to start writing about the people I knew who were actively changing the world for the better. This morning I woke up to discover that my friend and collaborator Rodney Gilbert had passed away. Rodney probably changed the world more than anyone I’ve ever met, in ways that were largely invisible to much of the world, but profoundly significant to the those of us that knew him.

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I woke up one morning back in 2007 to a voicemail from Rodney Gilbert. He said “David White, it’s 2:00 in the morning. I’m in Newark. I’m in my house and there’s police tape across the street. This kid just got shot. We need to get to work.”

Rodney was an actor, director, producer, activist and advocate. When you worked with him, you got all those things. He never left any part of his personality outside and you didn’t really want him to. His activism brought power to his acting. His advocacy brought passion to his producing. His work as an actor brought sensitivity and compassion to his direction.

I met Rodney in 2004 when he worked as an actor in Passage Theatre’s adaptation of “A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich” directed by Nick Anselmo. After that, I hired Rodney to come to Trenton to act and work with kids every chance I got and he was always willing to do so. Our collaboration solidified when he played the role of King Navarre in my play “If I Could, In My Hood, I Would…” Rodney was more than just an actor in the show. He was a mentor to the eight middle-school kids in the cast. The show revolved around the problems of gang violence in Trenton – issues that Rodney was familiar with because of his history in Newark.

Shortly after that  phone call, Rodney and I started talking about doing a production of “If I Could…” in Newark. Before we could start work, however, he wanted to show me what Newark was like – he told me that if I wanted to improve a community, I had to understand it from the inside-out. Early one morning, I parked my car near his house on Spruce and Rodney took me on a walking tour of his city.

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Separating Rodney from Newark is impossible. I’ve rarely met an artist so symbiotically linked to his hometown. Rodney grieved the problems his city went through, but never lost faith in the people that lived there. On our walk that day, I saw Newark from Rodney’s eyes. We couldn’t walk more than a few blocks without hearing someone shout his name.

Rodney directed “If I Could…” so many times that I lost count. During the first performance at a Newark community center, Rodney moderated a discussion between at least sixty gang members. ( a discussion which ultimately saw a poor representative from a local foundation scurrying for the exit.) I saw another production at a local church and yet another at a Newark art gallery. More often than not, though, I got messages after the fact – “Hey, David White. We did ‘If I Could’ last week. I forgot to tell you it was happening. My bad.”

Rodney did multiple shows and classes for Trenton kids – so many, it’s hard to remember. He also appeared on Passage’s mainstage in “Trenton Lights,” – an oral history based show about the city of Trenton (written by myself and June Ballinger, directed by Adam Immerwahr). He also directed a workshop of “Profiles,” a follow-up to “Trenton Lights” on the subject of race. Last summer, he and the Yendor (read it backwards) acting company produced a workshop of my play “Fixed.” Even after I stopped working at Passage, Rodney continued to come to Trenton and work with students at Trenton Central High. Somehow, he continued to find the time to champion African-American, Jersey-based playwrights, promote the artistic talent in Newark, and beautify his city by producing murals by Newark visual artists. Rodney didn’t rest. Rodney knew the arts made a difference. Rodney never gave up.

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I have been blessed with many amazing collaborators over the years, but Rodney was one of people that helped me grow as an artist, an advocate and as a human being. When I doubted that theatre could change lives, Rodney was there to prove me wrong. The world is a bit darker than it was yesterday, but Rodney’s work made everything so much better and brighter that it will ultimately make up for all the grief and mourning. My heart goes out to the folks at Yendor Productions, the Company, Rodney’s friends and family and the hundreds (thousands?) of young people that Rodney mentored over the years. Rodney was eloquent, intelligent, passionate and hopeful. He believed in the power of youth and fought for them to receive complete, well-rounded educations and equal access to opportunities.

Rodney – I suppose I should say “So long” here, but I’m not going to. You see, there are an awful lot of people that are still carrying pieces of you around with them. So I know you’re not gone. Your spirit has simply been divided and distributed among the people that knew and love you. I will grieve and mourn, but not for too long. Not because I won’t miss you, but because at some point it will be 2:00 AM and it will be time to get to work.

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Conversations with Nick About the Ape God

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NICK: Daddy?

ME: Yes.

NICK: Who were the first people?

ME: No one really knows. There’s a Bible story that says the first people were Adam and Eve. God made them and they lived in a garden. But that’s just a story. Probably, there were no first people. We evolved over thousands of years from something that looked like ape.

NICK: What the frick? We were apes???

ME: Not exactly. But we probably had a common ancestor with apes.

NICK: WE USED TO LOOK LIKE APES?

ME: Thousands of years ago.

NICK: I’M GONNA HAVE NIGHTMARES!

ME: No, no, no. It’s not scary. It just means that humans were different. We looked different thousands of years ago.

NICK: LIKE APES???

ME: Probably more like apes, yes.

NICK: Lord, God! I don’t wanna look like an ape!

ME: You don’t look like an ape! I mean people and apes have a common ancestor. And some people became apes and some people became people.

NICK: What the frick? I’m gonna have a nightmare where God comes down and HE HAS AN APE FACE!!!

ME: No, you’re not.

NICK: Yes! And the ape God comes down and he kills the human God!

ME: They’re the same God! I mean…no one knows if God…Okay…listen –

NICK: There are two Gods! The ape God and the human God! They have a common ancestor!

ME: That’s not what –

NICK: I don’t want to go to heaven, now.

ME: Why not?

NICK: Everyone there will have an ape face.

ME: No, they won’t.

NICK: Yes, they will. Because heaven has all the dead people so if people used to look like apes, most of the people in heaven will have ape faces.

ME: (pause) You make a good point.

 

 

 

Untethered, Stories Come Like Charms

Untethered Opening Reception 10.12.2017

In one of those odd opportunities that happen to playwrights on occasion, I was commissioned to write a short play as part of a museum exhibit at Florida Gulf Coast University. Artists Barbara Balzer and Linda Hall are the artists and according to the museum’s website –

“The works of Barbara Balzer and Linda Hall playfully draw on art history and mythology using ceramics and soft sculpture. Their fantastical and sometimes humorous works are being shown together for the first time, providing two distinct viewpoints that revisit age-old stories…”

I wrote a play called “Lord of the Forest” and it was directed by Greg Longenhagen. According to Greg, the most frequently asked questions following the performance were “Was this story really about something else?” and “Who was the bear supposed to be?”

The play follows in its entirety. Let me know if you figure out who the bear is supposed to be. More information on the exhibit can be found here – https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/event/untethered-stories-come-like-charms-barbara-balzer-and-linda-hall/60183

LORD OF THE FOREST

A play by David Lee White

CHARACTERS

The Narrator   any gender

Berton             A human (male)

Ava                 A human (female)

The Docent     A bear (male)

The Deer         A deer (female)

2 Birds            Birds (any gender)

Many crickets  Crickets (any gender)

Setting: The only house in the middle of the forest

(AVA and BERTON are in their house. Their house is located in the middle of the woods. It is the only house. AVA and BERTON sit in chairs, staring at the fire. It is quiet outside. The NARRATOR steps forward and speaks.)

NARRATOR

“Lord of the Forest” – something resembling a play, written by someone you’re unfamiliar with. Our play takes place in the forest, which might be a metaphor for something else entirely. There is a house in the middle of this forest. It is the only house. The house might also be a metaphor. Or it might not be. Inside the house are two people – Ava and Berton. They are married to one another. They have been married at least three years. The house belongs to them and the more I think about it, the more I think the house is probably not a metaphor. It’s probably a literal house. It is night. It is quiet. There is a full moon outside. At the moment, Ava and Berton are staring at the fire. This is what they do every evening. They stare at the fire.

BERTON

Good fire, tonight.

AVA

It’s the same fire as last night.

BERTON

Something wrong with last night’s fire?

AVA

No. I was just pointing out that last night’s fire was the same.

BERTON

Fire is interesting. I don’t necessarily love it or hate it. I’m kind of on the fence about the fire. But I do find it entertaining.

AVA

I’m starting to hate the fire. It’s always the same.

BERTON

Maybe you just haven’t really looked hard enough at the fire. It warms things up. It makes things brighter. The fire is good.

AVA

I thought you were on the fence about the fire.

BERTON

Tonight I’m pro-fire.

AVA

Where do you go during the day?

BERTON

We really gonna do this right now?

AVA

Where do you go every day when you leave our home?

BERTON

I go to the forest.

AVA

And do what?

BERTON

Forest things.

AVA

What are forest things?

BERTON

I walk around the forest. I keep a lookout. I get wood for my amazing fire.

AVA

What are you on the lookout for?

BERTON

You don’t need to worry about that.

AVA

Are you keeping a lookout for the Docent?

BERTON

Don’t be silly. The Docent has a whole forest to deal with. He doesn’t care about us. Don’t worry about the Docent.

AVA

I’d like to go to the forest.

BERTON

No. I would worry.

AVA

About the Docent?

BERTON

Just watch the fire!

NARRATOR

From outside, we hear cricket noises, made by actors, but representing actual crickets.

(We hear crickets)

AVA

What’s that noise?

BERTON

Oh my God.

AVA

Are those crickets? We haven’t heard crickets in ages.

BERTON

They’re just crickets. They don’t mean anything. We’re going to be fine.

AVA

Why are you so freaked out by the crickets?

NARRATOR

Suddenly, there is pounding on the door of the house. It sounds like this. “Pound, pound, pound!”

BERTON

There is nobody at the door! You don’t have to be scared!

AVA

Berton, who is at the door?

NARRATOR

His body heavy with resignation, Berton goes to the door and opens it. The Docent enters. He has the head of a bear.

DOCENT

Berton! My friend! How’s it hanging?

NARRATOR

The actress playing Ava has a look of consternation on her face, expressing both confusion and concern.

AVA

(with look of consternation)

Is that…are you the Docent?

Continue reading “Untethered, Stories Come Like Charms”

Conversations with Nick about what he’d rather do

Nick is seven now. He talks about different things than he did when he was five. Kind of.

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NICK: Dad?

ME: Yes.

NICK: Let’s play “Would You Rather.”

ME: Okay. Would you rather be ten feet tall or one inch tall?

NICK: Ten feet tall. My turn.

ME: Go.

NICK: Would you rather be a gangster that dresses all fancy or a sad, lonely orphan?

ME: Oh, my God, Nick!

NICK: What?

ME: That’s awful!

NICK: I WOULD BE A GANGSTER!

ME: First of all, the question is for me so you don’t get to choose. I would be an orphan.

NICK: What? Why?

ME: Because I assume when you say gangster, you mean someone that, like, commits crimes and stuff.

NICK: Yes. AND HE DRESSES ALL FANCY!

ME: I’m not gonna be a criminal. I would seriously rather be an orphan.

NICK: But how would you get food?

ME: “Orphan” doesn’t mean you don’t get to eat. It just means you don’t have parents. You can still get food.

NICK: How?

ME: I don’t know. There are programs.

NICK: What if the gangster didn’t kill anyone but just robbed banks.

ME: No, Nick! Robbing banks is still bad! It’s all violence!

NICK: What if he broke into houses?

ME: No!

NICK: WHAT IF HE WAS A TISSUE ROBBER?

ME: What is that?

NICK: WHAT IF HE ONLY ROBBED TISSUES?

ME: Like…Kleenex?

NICK: Yes.

ME: And that’s all he took?

NICK: Yes.

ME: He broke into peoples’ houses and stole tissues.

NICK: Yes.

ME: Maybe that would be okay.

NICK: THAT WOULD BE BETTER THAN A LONLEY ORPHAN WHO DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING BUT A DRUM STICK!

ME: Where did the drum stick come from?

NICK: The orphan has it!

ME: How did the orphan get a drum stick?

NICK: I don’t know! Your turn!

ME: Okay. Would you rather live in a really long but short house or a really thin but tall house?

NICK: Tall and thin house. My turn.

ME: Go.

NICK: Would you rather a lonely orphan who is naked and has a drum stick or a sad man that walks at the end of a lake?

ME: What does that even mean?

NICK: HE WALKS AT THE END OF A LAKE!

ME: Like…in the lake or next to the lake?

NICK: In it! And he’s sad!

ME: Why?

NICK: Doesn’t matter! Would you rather be him or the naked orphan with a drum stick?

ME: Since when did the orphan get naked? Is this the same orphan?

NICK: Yes!

ME: Is the man at the end of the lake, like…drowning in the lake?

NICK: Yes!

ME: WHERE ARE YOU GETTING THIS?

NICK: MAKE A CHOICE!

ME: I’D RATHER BE THE ORPHAN SO I DON’T DROWN!

NICK: BUT YOU WOULD BE NAKED!

ME: THAT’S OKAY! I WOULDN’T DROWN! PLUS, FOR SOME STRANGE REASON, I’D HAVE A DRUM STICK!

THE ASK – Now available!

https://www.amazon.com/Ask-other-similar-one-act-plays/dp/1977583792/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506718696&sr=8-1&keywords=david+lee+white+ask

First of all, much love and thanks to Martin and Rochelle Denton for giving my one-act plays a home at Indie Theater Now for the past six years. I’m also grateful to Smith & Kraus and Applause for keeping the monologue from “The Ask” in circulation. I’ve loved getting emails from high school and college students all over the world asking about my plays. Thankfully, the Indie Theater Now one acts didn’t go without a home for very long. They’re now all collected in “The Ask (and other similar one-act plays)” which is now available on Amazon. Thanks to Susan Roberts-McWilliams for her crackerjack editing prowess and Nicole Dvorin for her industrious proofreading skills. I wrote the bulk of these plays from 2007 – 2011 and worked with some of my favorite theatre artists in the process. The brilliant Adam Immerwahr helped me find my voice and made sure these were more than just comedy sketches. Jade King Carroll, Nick Anselmo, Chris Mixon and Ron Bopst also directed my work and made it far more eloquent than it is on the page. June Ballinger was my producer and actress extraordinaire. Kacy O’Brien and Angela Duross put tons of work into putting these little skits on stage. Dara Lewis, Charlotte Northeast, Chris Mixon, Kate Brennan, Simon Kendall, Chris Coucill and countless others brought the roles to life. And as always, a special shout out to the Passage Play Lab and my two co-founders Ian August and Hope Gatto who encouraged me to take this writing thing seriously in the first place. Thank you all. Now go buy a copy! It’s only $6.99, for crying out loud! Don’t be such a cheapskate!

A Dream I Had About a Play About Social Media

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DREAM I HAD ABOUT A PLAY ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

(A FATHER and SON sit on the beach. The FATHER holds a helium balloon on a string. The SON is 6 or 7 years old)

FATHER: Okay. I’m gonna hand it to you, okay?

SON: Okay.

FATHER: But don’t let go yet.

SON: Okay.

FATHER: Now, we’ll just take this picture of you (pulls a small picture from his wallet) and attach it to the balloon.

SON: That’s me.

FATHER: Yep. You want to write something on it? A message for mommy to see when the balloon gets to her?

SON: Ummm… that I love her? And I miss her.

FATHER: That sounds good. I think she’ll like that. You want me to write it or do you want to write it?

SON: I can write it.

FATHER: Okay. Here, I’ll hold the balloon and you write on the picture. (FATHER takes a marker out of his backpack) Make the letters small, okay? So you have room.

SON: Okay.

(The SON begins writing. The FATHER stares at him for a beat, then takes out his phone and takes a picture of the SON. Then he stares at his phone for a bit and posts the picture online. He puts his phone back in his pocket, then goes and sits next to the SON. TWEETER 1 enters, staring at phone.)

TWEETER 1: (typing on phone) Check this out. Father playing with son on the beach. Cute. Forwarding.

(TWEETER 2 enters)

TWEETER 2: Awww… Very cute. Wonder if they’re gonna let that balloon go.

(TWEETER 3 enters)

TWEETER 3: Hope not. You’re not supposed to let balloons go like that. It’s dangerous.

TWEETER 1: They’re not doing anything wrong.

TWEETER 3: Released balloons are a danger to area wildlife. Just sayin’.

TWEETER 2: You have a point.

(TWEETER 4 enters)

TWEETER 4: It’s true. Here’s an article about why it’s dangerous to let balloons go.

TWEETER 3: My cousin works at the National Wildlife Service and he sent me these pictures of dead birds tangled in balloon string.

TWEETER 1: I think we’re overreacting. It’s just one balloon.

TWEETER 2: You have a point.

TWEETER 4: Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice that a father is playing with his son since almost no fathers do that. But It’s also selfish to not think about the birds.

TWEETER 3: Oh, it’s not just a danger to birds. Here’s a picture of six rabbits that choked to death on a latex balloon.

TWEETER 2: OMG. You make a solid point.

TWEETER 4: They just wanted food and they tried to eat a balloon. Poor rabbits.

TWEETER 1: This seems a little reactive.

TWEETER 3: In one of the Carolinas, a wedding party released all these balloons and they got tangled up in electrical lines and birds got all tied up. And then they fell and dogs ate the birds and got sick.

(Enter TWEETER 5)

TWEETER 5: Yes, it’s nice that a black guy is on the beach with a kid. But he’s a danger to wildlife. No discussion. Full stop.

TWEETER 1: What makes you think he’s black?

TWEETER 5: He looks black. I’m not racist.

TWEETER 2: No one is calling you racist.

TWEETER 5: I just pointed it out as a descriptor. He looks black.

(TWEETER 6 enters)

TWEETER 6: Umm…you didn’t just point it out. You said it was nice that he was playing with his son. Like black men don’t play with their sons?

(TWEETER 7 enters)

TWEETER 7: Snowflake! Libtard!

TWEETER 6: This is not political!

TWEETER 7: Maybe people talk about black dads not taking care of their sons because they don’t. Ever think of that?

TWEETER 1: He doesn’t look black to me.

TWEETER 2: Good point. He has privilege on his face.

TWEETER 3: It’s the middle of a weekday and he’s not at work. Must be nice.

TWEETER 6: Must be nice because he’s black?

TWEETER 3: Must be nice because he’s white!

TWEETER 4: Wall Street dad.

TWEETER 2: Good call.

TWEETER 6: I’d like to get back to racist comment that guy made.

TWEETER 7: Why are you people so obsessed with racism?

TWEETER 6: Excuse me? You people???

TWEETER 2: LOL

TWEETER 1: OMG

TWEETER 7: I am not racist, but white people are definitely in danger of extinction in this country.

TWEETER 3: You know what’s also in danger of extinction? The California Condor. What happens if it gets tangled up in balloon string?

TWEETER 4: Here’s a Buzzfeed article about how all the California Condors are dying. Oh, wait…my bad…it’s about bees.

FATHER: Almost done there buddy?

SON: Yeah.

FATHER: Read it back to me.

SON: “Mommy. I miss you so much. I wish you were still here. I love you.”

FATHER: Perfect. You want to let it go now?

SON: Yeah.

FATHER: Okay. We’ll let it go and it will go straight to mommy. Okay?

SON: Okay.

FATHER: On the count of three. One…two…three!

(SON lets the balloon go. It soars upwards while they watch. FATHER takes out phone, takes picture and posts.)

TWEETER 3: He let it go! This is just wrong.

TWEETER 4: Here’s a Mental Floss article about why people do things they know are wrong.

TWEETER 1: Read the whole thread, you guys. His wife died. His kid is letting off a balloon to say goodbye.

TWEETER 3: I’m not saying I approve of people dying. I’m just saying what about dogs that eat balloons?

TWEETER 7: Unless she died while getting an abortion or living on welfare. I approve of that kind of dying.

TWEETER 6: I can’t even handle this! I’m blocking you! I don’t care if you’re my cousin.

TWEETER 5: Don’t feed the troll!

TWEETER 2: He’s a troll. Fair point.

TWEETER 4: What beach are they on?

TWEETER 3: Looks familiar. Seaside Heights maybe?

TWEETER 5: I work at Seaside Heights. Yeah, that’s Seaside Heights.

TWEETER 4: Can you figure out who he is?

TWEETER: 5: Probably.

FATHER: There it goes. Up and away.

SON: Up and away.

TWEETER 1: Read the entire thread before commenting, you guys. This is getting out of hand.

TWEETER 6: Well then why did you start it?

TWEETER 7: This is just the way it is.

TWEETER 5: Okay. He’s staying at my hotel, you guys. His name is Chad Harris. And he works for the Fish and Wildlife commission.

TWEETER 3: No way.

TWEETER 7: Government employee. Figures.

TWEETER 5: Someone should write his boss and let him know he’s breaking the law.

TWEETER 1: Are you trying to get him fired?

TWEETER 3: Look, if he’s willing to put wildlife at risk like this, he shouldn’t be working for the wildlife commission.

TWEETER 4: Here’s a cracked.com article about people that get what’s coming to them.

TWEETER 5: I’m doxxing him.

TWEETER 1: What?

TWEETER 3: He deserves it.

TWEETER 2: Fair point.

TWEETER 3: Write his boss and tell him that Chad Harris doesn’t deserve his job.

(TWEETERS exit, tweeting)

FATHER: Say goodbye, buddy.

SON: Goodbye!

(FATHER’S phone buzzes. He takes it out of his pocket and looks at it.)

FATHER: What? Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me?

(FATHER begins typing on phone furiously)

FATHER: Who the fuck are you people? What are you doing?

(All the TWEETERS return, yelling and screaming at one another at the same time. The SON steps away from the group. The TWEETERS continue to yell, but we can no longer hear them. SON stares up at the sky and waves.)

SON: Goodbye…goodbye…

END OF PLAY

FIXED – The Princeton Packet

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Playwright David Lee White wants to entertain, and start the right conversation about mental illness

  • By Anthony Stoeckert
  • May 5, 2017 Updated May 5, 2017
When David Lee White writes plays about characters with mental illness, he’s looking do many things — entertain an audience, get them thinking, get them laughing, and create a story and characters the audience will relate to.
“One of the things I’m really interested in is this idea of making it not such a taboo,” says White, whose play “Fixed” is being presented by Trenton’s Passage Theatre in Trenton through May 21.
 The play is about three friends from high school who reunite because one of them, Ronnie (played by Maria Konstantinidis), is suffering from schizoaffective disorder symptoms of which can include hallucinations, delusions, and mood disorders. One of the ideas of the play is that Ronnie’s friends, Valerie (Alicia Isabel Rivas) and Daryl (Phillip Gregory Burke), didn’t know Ronnie dealt with mental illness back when they were friends, and White says the taboo factor is likely a reason why.
“And I think that was one of the reasons why I didn’t notice the signs,” says White, who wrote about his struggle with depression in his one-man play, “Panther Hollow.” “I didn’t recognize it, no one really talked about that stuff.”
The play’s writing came about in part because of “Panther Hollow,” in which White addressed some of his experiences in high school.
“It dredged up a lot of high school stuff,” White says. “But then I got really interested in (the idea that) people who show symptoms of mental illness start showing it kind of young, but no one really gets it. No one really sees it and yet it can have this kind of profound impact if you’re around it.”
The character of Ronnie, he says, is somewhat based on someone from his college days.

“I just didn’t see it at the time,” he says of that college friend dealing with mental illness. “I didn’t notice everything that was happening.”

He adds that as he wrote about friendships, he found himself thinking about friendships from high school, and how we think those friendships could never end, yet some of them inevitably do. He says he is fascinated by the idea that he had friends in high school who he thought would always be part of his life, but aren’t.

He says that while he’s addressing mental illness in “Fixed,” he’s also writing a drama, and wants to do more than inform people about facts involving mental illness.

“One thing I didn’t want it to be is a brochure on mental illness or bipolar disorder,” White says. “I didn’t want to to be a docudrama about ‘How you too can get treatment.’ So I hope that strikes a cord.”
In writing these plays, he says he’s also conscious not only of what the plays address but if they’re doing it the right way.
 “I’m very conscious of, ‘We’re talking about it but are we talking about the right way and are we telling the right kind of story?'” he says.
He points to the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why,” which has been the subject of controversy because of how the show’s approach to teen suicide and mental illness.
“I got mad at it without ever seeing it because I had a knee-jerk response, ‘They’re not telling the right story,'” White says. “Any kind of mental illness or treatment is so personalized, I think the talking about it, while good, has made people conscious of, ‘Are we telling the right story?’ Sometimes there’s a thin line between exploitation and honesty. I don’t know, I think it’s possible people could watch my play and think, ‘This is [ticking] me off because it’s not like that.’ I’m not sure what to do with that.”
White’s plays are often funny, and while “Fixed” has less humor than some of his other plays, White did include some funny moments, which he said was a delicate balance.

“I think those three friends are funny, and they’re not particularly politically correct, especially in 2000 when they’re 17 years old,” he says. “People have come back to me and said, ‘This particular joke, I think people are going to stop listening.’ And I’ve gone, ‘Oh come on.’ But then in the end, I’ve listened to their arguments and said, ‘OK for the greater good.’ People understanding the story is more important than that one joke, but it’s a difficult dance.”

“Fixed” is being performed by Passage Theatre at the Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 E. Front St., Trenton, through May 21. Tickets cost $20-$33l; www.passagetheatre.org; 609-392-0766.

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FIXED director Maureen Heffernan

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Reprinted from the May 3, 2017, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper
Veteran Director Right Fit for ‘Fixed’ Premiere
by Dan Aubrey

Maureen Heffernan sits quietly at the table set up in front of the Passage Theater stage on which a quartet of actors are work through a scene from the new play she’s directing, “Fixed.”

Heffernan — armed with a cup of pencils, a box of tissues, and a bottle of water — may seem as comfortable as a pilot who has logged numerous hours on a familiar route, but she is also likewise alert to the script open before her, the actors stopping to ask question about a line or movement, and the playwright sitting beside her. That’s former Passage Theater assistant artistic director David White, and he gets up and starts pacing.

While “Fixed” is not White’s first play, it carries some elements that can cause more anxiety than usual. The play deals with a theme he feels strongly about: mental illness. And it is under more than just a stage spotlight. It was commissioned by the NJPAC Stage Exchange, a program of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. This is its first full production.

“I want to ask something about business,” says Heffernan, stopping the rehearsal and leading the actors and playwright into a discussion about stage action.

As she does, she draws on her experience of directing more than 90 productions. And while Heffernan recently retired as the executive director of Young Audiences of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, she is connected to the development of theater in central New Jersey— on stage and off.

“I was at George Street in the 1980s and ‘90s,” she says after rehearsals at Passage’s home in the Mill Hill Playhouse, an old church-turned-theater on the edge of the Mill Hill neighborhood in downtown Trenton, where Heffernan lives. “After I got out of grad school I started as a children’s theater actor, then (George Street Playhouse founder and director Eric Krebs) found out I did stage managing, and I moved to production stage manager, then stared the education department. Eric was a great mentor. He gave me the opportunity to direct. I directed a number of New Jersey premieres, ‘A Little Night Music,’ a stylized version of ‘Cabaret,’ ‘’Night Mother’ and (others). I also got to do some acting,” she says of her critically praised works.

Heffernan says when she left she started directing for different theaters — John Houseman Theater and Ensemble Studio Theater in New York City, Pittsburgh Public Theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company in Ohio, Pennsylvania Stage Company in Allentown, and the Florida Repertory Theater.

While Heffernan had the opportunity to work at a lot of different theaters, she says, “At the same time I was drawn to arts education. I was involved with the (New Jersey State Council of the Arts’) Summer Arts Institute, which became the Institute for Arts and Humanities Education, and I became its director. While I was there, I was involved with interdisciplinary learning, which is a passion for me.”

She says the reason she gravitated toward arts administration was to help give herself and other artists a voice. “(Artists) often complain that we don’t have control over our destiny. I thought I should step forward and work at the administration level.”

Her connection to “Fixed” began last year when Passage Theater Artistic Director June Ballinger invited her to a staged reading at the NJPAC in Newark. Heffernan says she shared her response with White, who in turn suggested she direct its first production.

“I’ve known David for years, loved his plays, and we wanted to work together. And I’m happy to work at a theater two blocks from my home.”

Yet it was her connection to the subject that sealed the deal.

White’s play is a comedy that deals with three Trenton High graduates who vow to always be there for one another whenever they get sick. It then evolves into “a story about how ignored, untreated, mental illness can wend its way around a group of individuals and derail their lives. It’s also about how those same individuals can survive and thrive through treatment and their love for one another,” White says in a statement.

Heffernan says her work as an arts administrator and educator has involved her with people who have similar struggles and “in my own circle of family and friends, I have seen the struggle of people living with mental illness. There’s so much stigma associated with it, it is such a hidden disease. My mother suffered from depression, and it took her a long time to find something to help her.”

Heffernan, 66, came to New Jersey via Chicago. “I’m South Side Irish,” she says. “My father was a human relations employee with the Chicago Police Department and other city departments. My mother was a homemaker and worked at Sears for 20 years.”

Her life in the theater started at age 12. “I spent a lot of time in the school office for talking, and a teacher said, ‘You think you’re funny. Would you like to be in a play?’”

That led to an interest and a scholarship to a college in East Chicago. “It was a small Catholic school where everyone (in the theater) did everything,” she says.

It was also where she met Jack Bettenbender, an actor, director, and playwright who served as first dean of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, from its founding in 1976 until his death in 1988. He was looking for students.

“He recruited me, and I came here (to New Jersey) and got a full ride to Mason Gross. I am very lucky. I went to school on a scholarship.” Her classmates were Avery Brooks, Crossroad Theater founders Lee Richardson and Ricardo Khan, and playwright William Mastrosimone.

Heffernan says she was originally focused on acting, but she eventually realized that directing would help her find more jobs. Additionally, “I loved plotting the works,” she says.

Assessing her approach, Heffernan says, “I would like to think I’m a good collaborator. I think I can listen to voices. And I love to make pictures on stage. I love aesthetic beauty. And I don’t forget that we call them ‘plays’ for a reason. While I’m serious and attentive, if we lose the sense of joy, we lose the humanity in it.”

She says her move to Trenton came 20 years ago when she and her partner of 35 years, Betsy Stewart, whom she met at George Street, lived in Highland Park and found that market was becoming too expensive. At the advice of arts advocate and former Lawrence High School principal Don Profitt, she and Stewart became Mill Hill homeowners. “I have been here 20 years,” she says. “I love Trenton and am committed to it.” She and Stewart married in 2013.

Looking back at both her early days at GSP and as a founding member of Crossroads Theater, Heffernan says, “It’s exciting see a new generation of young art leaders. It’s invigorating.”

Then thinking about the work in front of her, she says, “One of the exciting things about doing a new play is you add a variable. If it is Shakespeare or Arthur Miller, if you‘re having a problem, it is the director or the designer. But with a new play, it is the first time it’s brought to life, so it is like a tightrope walk.”

It is a walk she hopes leads to unfixed ideas. “It is important that when people leave the play that they have questions as much as they have answers and have serious conversations on the way home.”

Fixed, Passage Theater, 205 East Front Street, Trenton. Opens Thursday, May 4, 7:30 p.m., and continues through Sunday, May 21, Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays, May 13 and 20, at 3 p.m., and Sundays, 3 p.m. $33 and $38. 609-392-0766 or www.passagetheatre.org.

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