The play was commissioned. Out of Hand Theater in Atlanta, GA approached me about developing a new work addressing Alzheimer's disease. Honestly, I instantly felt intimidated by the subject matter. Also there are so many wonderful plays that already explore the topic. But they told me I could attack it from any angle and examining the role of the caregiver immediately appealed to me. Carolyn Cook, a wonderful local actress who was on this journey with her own mother, also wanted to participate. So I jumped in.
Has the play dramatically changed since the first draft?
The script has been slowly, gently refined across the first several productions. That's the benefit of a National New Play Network rolling world premiere. I knew from jump last season that I had seven productions locked in, so I could afford to try things along the way. But ultimately Blackberry Winter has maintained it's basic structure and tone. The first workshop we did though, before the script was out in the world? That ran well over two hours because I tried to include everything and the kitchen sink. It was just too much. But when the play focused in on this one woman and her very specific experiences, it really came to life.
What’s your writing process like?
I'm not a particularly disciplined writer. But when I do write it tends to be in large, manic swaths. And I usually need music of some kind. The type varies depending on the project, but there's always music. It actively works against the clutter in my head.
How do you think BLACKBERRY WINTER has resonated with audiences so far? Any interesting feedback or an anecdote you’d be willing to share?
Two things. Audiences come in expecting something bleak and then really connect with and respond to the shared experiences, humor, and resilience of hope in the face of something so hopeless. And audiences want to talk afterwards. They are desperate to talk, to share their own stories. So many people are navigating caregiving for a loved one (or have) and they can often feel alone. Suddenly, they realize they're not the only ones who have these thoughts, these fears. It's remarkable.