This past weekend was the seventh annual HamilTEN Festival and I was lucky enough to get in again.
I struggled a lot this year about what to write. My play last year wasn’t a comedy per se but it had funny moments and comedies generally do very well in the festival, but I didn’t feel like writing a comedy this year. I waited and waited for something to come to me, but it was my sister who really made Beep come to life.
She remembered a poem I had written called “After the Beep” which was about my mom and my reaction to hearing her voice for the first time after her death on our answering machine. It was a short poem and at first I wasn’t sure how I was going to stretch out such a short piece, but I let it sit and Beep came about. I brought the first draft to a playwriting unit I’m apart of and got amazing feedback from the talented women there, submitted it, and was lucky enough to be accepted into HamilTEN again.
I was lucky enough to have an amazingly stellar cast who took so much care with this personal piece and made each and every performance so vulnerable and memorable. It made me so proud as a playwright to see them perform a play so close to my heart. It’s hard to describe what it’s exactly like seeing your words spoken back to you; watching and listening to an audience react to them. It’s surreal in a sense, and so different this time with such a personal play. It was almost like I was a ghost, watching and observing. Not a sad or lonely ghost, but not a happy one either. Just this figure watching, and loving from my seat, from the green room.
Every year the HamilTEN Festival is performed at The Staircase Theatre, which also happens to be a five minute walk to the Fortino’s where my mom used to work. And I can’t stop my head from creating something that will never exist.
My mind creates a story where I am in the festival and she is meeting me after work at the theatre. That I will be in the green room with the cast and she will be with my dad in the theatre and they’ll sit side by side and watch the show and I will see her after in the lobby. And she’ll be smiling, and maybe she’ll still be in her uniform and I’ll hug her again and smell her smell and hear her voice and none of it will be forgotten.
Of course it wouldn’t be this play, not if she was still here. Something different, and my head creates the narrative that would be better.
Because the story in my head is always better.
I wore a different one of her necklaces during the run of the show: ruby for Friday, sapphire Saturday, and opal for Sunday. I brought her with me in the little ways I could.
And maybe she was there. Maybe she was sitting by my dad or some other vacant seat. Maybe she stood by me in the green room. Maybe she was waiting for me in the lobby, smiling.
Maybe I just didn’t see her.
And I hope after everything that she is proud of me. Because I am already so proud of my cast and my friends and all of those who loved and supported me during this very difficult play. But to my mom, Susan O’Connor who I never want to be forgotten, who I hope will be remembered always through Beep who always believed in me when I didn’t, who saw exactly the distances I could go when I couldn’t see past the front door. This is for you mom, and I hope I made you proud.
(Photograph of Meaghan O’Connor and Kyla Dowling by Danielle Smiley Photography.)