“Were there red flags on our third date?” asked Amber O’Donnell in the play “Mine”, recounting a romantic encounter gone bad. “Probably. But what are red flags if not the waving symbol of humanity?”
“Mine”, my 2016 play and selection of the Chicago Fringe Festival 2016, deals with the complex relationship between our own voices and the voices that we hold inside our hearts. Oftentimes, the preferred interior voices read like generic memes of encouragement, variations on the “hang in there, baby” kitten hanging from a tree branch. Those interior voices strike me as neither particularly helpful nor particularly believable.
The darker and more sinister voices of our hearts reveal much more about ourselves than the brighter, hey-guys-let’s-do-the-show-right-here proclamations of self-worth and value. Why? Because they are rooted in our yearning to find understanding, or at least the perception of understanding, in our daily victories and defeats. They are the voices of self-preservation and are often rooted in past traumas and rationalizations than they are in hope for a better day.
In “Mine“, the main character – Amber O’Donnell (Kimmy Higginbotham) – is haunted by the traumatic memory in her life, which incidentally I play. For the first few drafts, the memory character was written as a Snidely Whiplash villain. But then I remembered all the memory characters I have floating around in my head and heart – the ones who say I’m not good enough, not worth love, not worth excelling as either a writer or actor, or worse, such-and-such a person has no value to me – and it occurred to me: that voice is probably the most charming and loving of all of my interior voices.
It is the voice that, instead of discouraging from attaining my dreams, encourages me to not pursue them in the first place. Play Mario Kart, watch a movie, re-invent an avatar on Second Life, the voice says, those would all be fun. Fuck rejection, it says. Avoid rejection, it says. Stay safe, it says.
And then it hit me: red flags. What are red flags? Answer: warnings about possible futures based upon past failures. Imagine such a voice inhabiting an infant. She fails to walk at first, and such a voice would encourage her not to walk. Imagine such a voice inhabiting an ex-husband, and such a voice would encourage him not to marry again. Imagine such a voice inhabiting someone who was hurt by another person, and such a voice would encourage him or her not to risk hurt again. They can be debilitating, certainly, no matter the age or circumstance, if they are permitted greater value than they are worth.
It is that voice that I’ve brought to life in “Mine” – a voice I’ve never really heard on stage before, but one which we’ve all heard in our hearts.
Have I put red flags into “Mine”? Yes. But what are red flags if not the waving symbol of humanity?
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THE CHICAGO FRINGE FESTIVAL 2016
Location: CCJP Meeting Hall, 5320 W Giddings St, Chicago, IL 60630-3604
Friday, 9/2/2016 @ 7pm
Saturday, 9/3/2016 @ 230pm
Sunday, 9/4/2016 @ 830pm
Monday, 9/5/2016 @ 10pm
Friday, 9/9/2016 @ 7pm
Saturday, 9/10/2016 @ 530pm
Sunday, 9/11/2016 @ 400pm