Why I Wrote New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House

Everyone has family stories to tell, so why did I take mine and craft a play out of them? Part of it was a challenge from our wonderful teacher and director Ryan Kitley. After finishing a class with him last year, he mentioned he wanted to teach a performance class – one class devoted to rehearsing and staging a one-act play.

I have been contemplating writing about my family for years but Ryan’s comments gave me a deadline and a purpose for the play. Rather than just writing it, I would see it performed as well. That was all I needed to finish it.New Years eve3

But the answer to the deeper question of why I was considering it to begin with is more complex. The major reason is that I miss all the people depicted in this play a great deal. Most had died by 1995, so I’ve been without them for 20-plus years in many cases.

My dad died in 1986 from a heart attack and so hasn’t gotten to see a great deal of my life. My mother died in 2006 and with her went any chance to hear the old family stories from her, or from anyone of her generation – her sister, my Aunt Millie, died a few months after my mother in 2006. I attended her wake on the first Mother’s Day after mine had died.

Losing them brought home to me that the only way to keep those family legends and tall tales alive was to become the family story teller myself. Writing, as a journalist, was what I had done for a living for 35-plus years, so I felt I could be faithful to the stories I had heard so many times as a child and young adult.

I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I do, most of those told in the play were actual family tales, some have been added to flesh out the dramatic arc of the show. Most of the characters were real people too although some are composites since I couldn’t include my mother’s entire family and find a cast large enough! And all say things they didn’t in real life, again for the sake of the story. But that considered, I think you will get a real feel for that crazy family of mine and, hopefully, be reminded of wonderful times with your families as well.

John

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