What once was lost… must now be found!
Either that or I’ve got to quit theater cold turkey. No more acting. Nor Writing. No Viewing. Bye Bye, Spotlighting.
Everything must go or I’m going to go crazy because every time I get involved in a show and get swept up by the magic of it all, I look upon my dream project and wish to make it a reality.
I’m telling ya’ – every single time I get involved in one of these productions, those dreams of my passion project, ‘The Lost World’ kick their way back through the door and haunt my every waking moment. No matter what I do, I am completely unable TO NOT FIND ‘The Lost World’ in every random moment when the world quiets for a spell and my brain re-engages and I start visualizing exactly how I’ll bring this story, my second completed play, to life. I have it all mapped out. I asked and answered every single question. I know where it begins, where it goes and how it flows.
I’m ready!!! I just need a stage – and actors – and lights – and the hundred other ingredients that stir together just right and make magic. I’ll bring the audience!!!
I think I need this now… or soon. More than ever. Not only do I want to direct it, I just want to see it come to life. I want to be transported and moved. It’s the same way I felt about ‘The Monkeybar Mafia’ when I finally sat down to watch it. Even though I wrote it and had seen it rehearsed time and time again, and knew exactly where the story was heading, it became all brand new once the lights darkened and the actors took hold. They made it their own and made me believe I was experiencing it all for the very first time – night after night. I wrote that for one reason above them all. I wrote something I’d want to see. What they delivered was a gift – and the best kind… the one that keeps giving in sweet, blissful memory. I’ll always have it and nobody can take that away.
When I sat down to write ‘The Lost World’, I had a very clear vision of where it was going to end… which is why that’s the very first thing I wrote. Once I finished crafting the conclusion, I jumped back to the beginning with a grand puzzle stretched before me. Now that I’m determined to bring an audience to tears by the end of this thing, how do I get there? 😉
That was my goal. To send ‘em out weeping… or more to the point… feeling something special. I yearn to create that connection. After all, it’s a highly personal piece – as attuned to my sensibilities as ‘Monkeybar’ was. On that play, a friend told me afterwards – “Anything you ever wanted to know about what makes Ed Humphries tick is right there on the page and the stage.” I’d argue that ‘The Lost World’ proves I have more to say.
I have to be careful not to tread too heavy into Spoiler Territory. I really am hopeful I can get this thing staged. So, while I’ll dance around some plot points, I should bring you all up to speed so you know what this whole thing is about in the first place. I just don’t want to ruin its surprises.
‘The Lost World’ tells the story of a 20-year High School Reunion. A classmate has died and the Class President is determined to find everyone who ever graduated with him to come to the evening for a night of nostalgia and tribute – looking to dedicate a memorial to their fallen friend. All but 6 classmates have been found so this woman reaches out to Reilly, a fellow grad turned small town cop who never left home, looking to see if he can use his police resources to track down these six wayward former classmates.
Over the course of Act One, we meet each of them as they come to speak with Reilly – each with very specific, guarded reasons for not wanting anything to do with High School. But Reilly is a good guy and a great salesman; and they all agree to attend – bound by their shared connection to him.
As Act One comes to an end, the six characters gather for the reunion only to find that they are the only people there. Is this just another stupid High School prank? By the end of that act, they – AND THE AUDIENCE – are tipped to a major twist that impacts Act Two where they decide to host their own mini-reunion. Over the course of one fateful night, they reminisce, laugh, fight, cry, look back, gaze ahead and take stock of everything life has done to them and everything they have shied away from… and potentially make a course correction to change that lot in life.
It’s funny, poignant, sad, tragic and hopeful – sometimes all at once. At least, that was my intent. I hope if you ever see it, you feel the same.
I have it all mapped out in my head. I plan to cast teen versions of the main characters – who appear in three sequences choreographed to music; little vignettes that add texture to the story. The show uses a lot of music to underscore the drama. All of it ties together to hopefully create something that will stick with people.
Where ‘The Monkeybar Mafia’ was born from my one-year bout of unemployment and a general restlessness at not having accomplished what I set out to do way back when, I found ‘The Lost World’ after attending my 20-Year High School reunion.
Actually, the seeds were sewn the year prior. I joined Facebook in the Fall of 2008 and quite quickly was overcome by emotion when so many great faces thought lost to the mists of time suddenly emerged and we picked up conversations as if a day hadn’t past in a decade or two.
Roughly 6 months in – with everyone drunk on that euphoria that comes with really connecting with great people – a plan was hatched. Although we were 18 months early for our 20-year reunion, we collectively decided “Why wait”. So, that Fall, a group of about 60 of us gathered at a great little watering hole on the Coast Guard campus in Boston’s North End; the space offered up for free by one of our former classmates.
When we turned the page to 2010 and our 20-Year High School reunion loomed around the impending holidays, the prognosis looked good for a successful sequel. That impromptu North End rendezvous proved our 10-year reunion which was sparsely attended was an anomaly.
After all, for the 20-Year reunion planning, we had the luxury of nostalgia and technology joining forces to find each and every person we ever walked through those High School halls alongside and get their ‘ass to class’, as it were.
That reunion was a mammoth success. It was one of those nights that flies so fast and furious – it’s over in an instant, you wish you could bottle it… and yet, it’s almost a blessing that it does end almost as soon as it begins; leaving so many of us walking away with a slight yearning in our hearts. Somehow, that slight sting sweetens memory the most.
It reminded me that great friends and good memories are the only currency I will ever need.
That great night occurred mere months before I sat down and wrote ‘The Monkeybar Mafia’ at a fever pitch over five short days. Despite the fact I had that tale churning in my head; a new story started to take form, born from the reunion. I knew I had to wrangle ‘Monkeybar’ before I could focus on this other thing, despite its best efforts to stake a claim on Mafia territory.
So as soon as I had a good, working script for ‘Monkeybar’, my attention turned to ‘The Lost World’.
Three thoughts burrowed into my head and ultimately formed the beating heart of this thing – all three sort of ripped from my own headlines.
First, there is the gulf between the 10 and the 20 year reunions – which was wide. For the 10, we easily had half of the numbers that came to the 20. And at the 10, most of those who showed dragged their significant others along. I’m guilty of that as well and I’ll admit, it’s no fun. For them, nor you. It’s 5 hours among your former classmates. No amount of cramming can prepare an outsider for that test. So, those that drag their spouse usually end up guarding a table, clock-watching and exchanging idle chit-chat with the other couples while the solo folks hold court a the bar and live it up.
At the 20 Year, the vast majority stowed “the old ball & chain”, freeing them for a night of revelry. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful – AT ALL. Hey, I went to my former wife’s 10 Year reunion and I’m a social guy. I should have gotten along famously but there wasn’t a single person there who was happy to see me. And why should they? It’s their night, not mine. I should be serving appetizers or Appletinis there. I’m no West Bridgewater Wildcat. I’m a Rockland Bulldog – born and bred and white and blue!!!
So, I left there struck by how many people came and just enjoyed the hell out of the night. It flew way too fast for way too many of us – and walking out, as we exchanged hugs and pledged to stay in touch, there was a little bit of longing. All of our old differences were largely past us. And that’s another difference from the 10 year to the 20 year. I’ll dive a little deeper in a moment but suffice it to say, sometimes the scars of High School linger long and I took note of that. Me – I feel pretty good about my days even if I was NEVER big man on campus. Hell, I was shy and quiet the majority of the time. But time does a lot to bring out your true personality. I was glad to come back armed with the confidence I never had way back when.
So on that night nostalgia grabbed one arm, technology the other – and vaulted us right over the velvet rope. And we were all the better for it.
Which brings me to the second seed; a kissing cousin to the first.
I have an iPhone, a Blu-Ray, a MacBook Pro, a WiiU and a 46” LED Smart TV.
I’m not bragging. I’m just illustrating that for me – and most of my ilk – technology doesn’t frighten me. Sure, I was there in the trenches when a VCR first showed up at my home – sometime around my 13th birthday (in the Summer of 1985) and I had to figure out how to program this thing to tape one of the few shows worth watching back then while my parents stared at it like it was a visitor from space. And then I had to teach my Mom over and over and over again all I had learned. Ahhhh, VCR humor!!! Now I’m showing my age much more than my hairline EVER COULD!!!
So, I grew up in a generation that at first had NO TECHNOLOGY (the closest thing I had to a tablet computer was a pterodactyl drilling on a slate) – BUT – we could see THE FUTURE on the horizon. From Kindergarten to 5th Grade, I never used a computer. Then at the Middle School, my first Computer Teacher EVER – Mr. Kerrigan – taught us how to draw with the LOGO ‘turtle’ on an old-school Apple IIe. I remember having to stop at Radio Shack on my walk home from school to buy a floppy disk so that I could ‘Save’ the progress of the amazing ‘animation project’ I was working on. I called it ‘Newton’s Law’ and it depicted an apple dropping from a tree. You might also know it as ‘RED BLOB TRAVELS LENGTH OF BROWN VERTICAL LINE BUT STOPS HALFWAY DOWN BECAUSE I RAN OUT OF TIME AND NEVER FINISHED THE DAMN THING HENCE THE B AND NOT THE A’.
When I started thinking about the story and play that I wanted to tell, I became fascinated by that generation of people who have grown up to truly embrace technology AND YET come from a primitive time where it didn’t quite exist – certainly not in our households – and definitely not at the beginning. We straddled the fence. First we had nothing. Then we had the future.
That was a time where if you wanted to get someone’s attention – you couldn’t Skype, Tweet, Text or Sext. You had to ‘reach out and touch someone’ (to steal that old AT&T jingle) and actually go over their house or call them up on one of those big giant rotary phones that crushed the spirits of any tiny fingers that dared to dial a number with a ‘0’ in it.
My generation bridged the gap. I can do anything a 5th Grader can do now but I remember a time when I couldn’t – AND THAT’S WHEN I WAS AN ACTUAL FIFTH GRADER – and didn’t have Google to guide my way.
So I knew I wanted to say something about High School and about nostalgia – and the hold they have on people. I mean, I’ve grown up with a whole legion of Star Wars kids. Grown adults chomping at the bit knowing that new Jedi flicks are coming. My generation is one that seemingly doesn’t let go of things as easily as our parents. I can’t imagine my Dad getting stoked for more Jabba.
Things from my generation tend to linger – for good or for bad. I wanted to explore that.
Which leads me to the final seed in my story. The final component that binds it all. The only ingredient that ever really matters.
The older I get and the more I reflect (these days, seemingly every other Blog Post), the more I realize I’m actually a hopeless – NO – make that – HOPEFUL romantic. That’s what I want for my life anyway. I want to find that ONE PERSON who just makes your existence make all the sense in the world. It’s like what I wrote the other day – the ultimate fairy tale is to find that person whom the second you catch a glimpse of their smile you know it’s because it’s for no other reason than she is in your world and you in hers. All the rest is the proverbial icing on the cake.
So, while I continue to hunt it unsuccessfully, I do the next best thing; the only thing I can do. I create it using a blank page, a few thousand words and my wild imagination. I attempt the impossible and wish a dream to life.
For this play, I drew from personal experience. Not from love but from pure friendship.
That’s the tricky thing. The moment in my life that inspired the core romance that beats at the heart of this play is NOT a romantic relationship at all. NOT EVEN CLOSE!!! The title and back story comes straight from one of the first friends I had on this planet. It’s all derived from age 7 where it’s not love BUT friendship that means everything in the world to a boy. (That one right down there).
When I was six-years old, my family and I moved from the Everett, MA (a modest city on the outskirts of Boston) to the more bucolic, leafy environs of Rockland – a small town situated on the South Shore of Massachusetts about halfway from Boston to the Cape.
We relocated in the Summer between Kindergarten and First Grade – meaning when we first got to town and moved into that old house that had stood a century and then some by the time we found it in 1979 – anyway, I didn’t know a soul. I missed Kindergarten in that town which put me at a decided disadvantage on the bustling social scene.
As it was Summer and there were hundreds of boxes to unpack, my Mom did what all Moms did back when life seemed so much more innocent and pure and just sent me out of her hair and into the streets.
It’s a good thing my street was this great neighborhood stocked with a rogue’s gallery of kids of all ages who played from dawn ‘til dusk. During my first few days in my new home, I watched them from my porch – riding their bikes up and down the street – having the times of their lives. I was a shy guy and a little wary at trying to get their attention, so I just watched from my perch, hoping one would take notice of me and pull me into their fold.
It didn’t happen so as each day wore on, I got a little more courage and moved myself closer to their sight line.
One day I made it to the tree – this great big oak that stood guard in our front yard – and played with my modest collection of Star Wars figures, play acting small skirmishes and making light saber noises anytime the elementary-aged entourage got within earshot – hoping it would lure them in.
Finally, one fateful morning, I grabbed my sister’s jump rope and decided I would hold court on the sidewalk. If the kids wouldn’t come to me, I’d have to snag one on my own.
I don’t know what came over me – but on their first loop of the day – as a battalion of banana-seated bikes raced by – I raised my arm and tossed the jump rope into the flow of their traffic. It hit the lead kid’s bike head on, as if given a guiding push by the Fates themselves – and got sucked into his chain. This was one of those moments when life slows and you remember every little horrible detail. The screech of his front tire. A faint burned-rubber smell. Momentum and gravity taking hold and grabbing his frame forward – filliping him over the handlebars and soaring through the air. Finally, a meaty thud as this kid, Kyle, came crashing back to Earth. And then the stinging slams of a million little fists, pummeling me for my transgression.
Damn you stupid physics!!!
With one errant toss, I had surely sealed my death warrant.
I cowered when Kyle’s Dad came down the street to see what had happened. Each kid corroborated his story – telling it with little deviation – while Kyle nursed his bruised knee. I was guilty as charged. I couldn’t deny it. I stood off to the side, my Mom taking turns apologizing on my behalf and warning me of the horrors that awaits “when your father gets home”.
Then Kyle’s Dad surprised the Hell out of me. He came over – a gentle giant – put his huge paw on my shoulder and told me, “Don’t worry. You’re going to fit in here just fine” and punctuated that with a warm smile.
He then turned to Kyle and his little brother Steven and said “This is what you get for not letting him play with you.”
While I would eventually come to join forces with those boys – my original band of brothers whom I shared many glorious years alongside on that awesome street of which I have written about before – for the next year or two, it was the little girl who lived down the lane who became my best friend. I met her when school started that Fall and we found ourselves taking the walk down the street to Jefferson Elementary School which stood just a stone’s throw from the end of our neighborhood. We were so close, no buses were needed. And this was The Seventies, a time when Lawn Darts, No Seat Belts, Free Love and all that was in the air– so I believe we were just sent on our merry way. Two first graders walking themselves to school with nary a care in the world.
Over the course of the next two years, we were inseparable. Each Tuesday night, her parents would bring her to the local library and invite me along. I checked out the same 2 books almost every single time. The first was ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Monsters… But Were Afraid to Ask’ – an encyclopedia devoted to the minutia of Gorgons, Gremlins and Godzilla. After we left, we chased that with donuts and Orange-Ade at the local Dip n’ Sip.
The other book was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure classic, ‘The Lost World’, a book I was told on one too many times by one too many librarians, was above my reading level. Puh-lease!!! Do you have any idea who you are dealing with here?
I was obsessed with pop culture from a young age and used to read TV Guide cover-to-cover aloud at Age 3. ‘The Lost World’ with its fantastic expedition to a land that time forgot was right in my wheel house.
It also became the blueprint for our summer-long expeditions as my friend and I explored the woods that spanned from her house. Once you cut through the brambles, briars and rhubarb stalks that stood sentinel before this huge, stretch of forest and swamp – you came to a huge clearing of sand pits. It’s there where we imagined these massive troughs dug in the Earth were created by dinosaurs – romping night after night – sight unseen once our sleepy heads hit our beds. Ripping a page from my favorite book, it became our ‘Lost World’. Something so magnificent back then that only grew taller when separated by time and space.
We would rush out day after day – with neither plan nor cares – just a backpack stocked with snacks, a makeshift map and whatever tools we found around the house that would aid us in documenting these primeval pets. We never found ‘em but we knew they were out there. From 7 – 10, any kid can wish anything they want into existence.
Those were the best of times. The purest of times. The times where you never really know how good you have it when you’re in the thick of it and then years later, as you gaze back upon it with a stirring blend of nostalgia and stinging bittersweet melancholia – you just know.
That’s the recipe for a great childhood.
And that’s exactly the impetus I had when crafting the central romance at the core of ‘The Lost World’.
I knew I wanted to say something about High School and the mark it leaves on everyone – the “in crowd” and the “out”, the “hot” and the “not”. They are four small years that happen to hit at the moment when every hormone is raging, synapses are firing, love is in bloom, personalities exploding, fears manifesting, future looming and a great, wide world ever-expanding. That’s gonna’ leave a mark.
Knowing that a mere 10 years later, so many people answer a simple question – “Are you going to the reunion?” with a stock “Hell No. I hated High School” – I had to tap into that mentality. And then having seen a 20 Year Reunion, where suddenly it all made sense and one night seemed so much simpler than the real world problems we wrestle with later on. A night, where for a few short hours, we can all do the time warp again and just take a step back to when we were young, dumb and just having fun – that’s what I wanted to key in on.
My real life friendship was not a romance nor did I nor do I wish it were.
It is simply the purest friendship I ever had.
It’s one of the most treasured tiles in my life’s mosaic – one from which others spring out and surround. I treasure those days trooping through The Lost World. When that little girl, all grown up, asked me to escort her into our High School Graduation – almost a decade after we stopped hanging around exclusively – I felt a surge of pride and a little remorse that time had gotten so far away from us.
When that same girl – now a successful woman with a beautiful family – took a journey westward to see my first play produced before an actual paying audience, I swallowed another lump.
We meet so many people on this journey. The great ones leave an impression.
When I wrote this play, I realized what I had done a little too late. You know me. I subscribe to the school of thought – “Write what you know.” That’s what I did here. I took a seed from my life, planted it and let it bear fruit. As soon as I did, I realized I may have erred. That was not just my childhood memory that I used. It was also hers. So, I reached out and confessed that in building my FICTIONAL romance, I had stolen her memory. She gave me the greatest answer ever. “What’s mine is yours.”
There’s a romantic relationship that beats as the heart of The Lost World but it is NOT my story … nor what I EVER wanted in my life with my childhood friend. Our story followed the course it was meant to take. It remains forever the purest childhood friendship I ever had. It will always be near and dear to my heart. I’m so fortunate to have lived a few years arm-in-arm with such an amazing friend at that great age when all the world is an adventure.
But it inspired part of the story I wrote. In turn, I gifted my memory to those characters.
Their tale is only a mere part of the story I wanted to tell. So I jotted it all down and fixed it up nice and pretty.
And now, I’m just dying to share it.