Onward and Forward

I have been immersed these last few weeks in bringing the play “Eric and Elliot” by Dwayne Hartford to the New River Valley from Roanoke Children’s Theatre. Raising the money to book the play, advertise, promote, print materials, social media promotion, getting news coverage, putting up flyers, emailing stake holders, and etc.

It has been meaningful on many levels because of the play’s focus, which is teen depression and suicide. I’ve had articles and stories sent to me which I’ve posted on our Facebook page . I’ve had strangers call me to tell me why this is important due to how depression or suicide has touched their life. I’ve had people come up to me while eating in a restaurant or out and about to express their thanks in this being addressed because, evidently, we have a problem here, folks, especially in the middle schools from what I’m learning.

Then the snow unexpectedly came, and we had to cancel the show not once, but twice.  At first, I felt deeply discouraged. But this is nature. And so, I just gave it up. All I could do in that moment was let the years and my lifetime of the dear voices in my head who have guided me, reign. My mother; Be kind to yourself, things happen for a reason. My friend Shelly; Now someone who couldn’t see the show before but needs it will be able to. Doris; You do your best, and nothing gets wasted. My sister Lola; You will learn something very important and useful from this. My friend Roger; Things happen and we need to sit and understand, but they don’t change who we are–it’s just information. My friend Michele; You’re like a cat. You always land on your feet.

Unexpectedly I received several sweet messages via Facebook, email, text, in person from people known and not known expressing empathy for me knowing how hard I had worked. It really meant a lot, and totally erased any non-productive thoughts that my efforts had been wasted. Advertisers have offered to waive fees when we re-schedule, and others have asked to be kept up to date.

Roanoke Children’s Theatre‘s Artistic Director Pat Wilhelms is committed to us finding another date, and Jeff Smith at Radford High School is committed as well to making the show available to all.

Many hands and pockets have gone into this endeavor, and I will not let them down.

This truly is a community effort that is nothing about me. It’s about the group effort, and the group achievement. THAT, is community engagement.

Even though sometimes I feel like I’m misunderstood by many around me, and I miss “my tribe”, the truth is that I am surrounded near and far by many and many who have supported and are even more importantly–interested and curious– to see what I might stir up next. And that is nothing to sneeze at.

So, in a way, this is a ’round about THANK YOU, to the family, friends, and those unknown, who have helped, supported, or been curious about my artistic efforts. You people rock.

“Eric and Elliot” at Radford High School

Re-scheduled for Feb. 22, at 7pm

I’ve said it before; ART HEALS. I saw a play this past November that addresses the issue of teen suicide and depression. Sounds like an uplifting night of theatre, eh? Well, it was and is. Eric and Elliot by Dwayne Hartford, produced by Roanoke Children’s Theatre and presented at Radford High School, Radford, VA on Jan. 17, at 7pm is a perfect example of a play that balances a message with entertainment value.

As a playwright I appreciate this.

I also appreciate that despite the fact that my son, Dante Piro was in it playing the troubled teen, (I had stayed away from rehearsals to avoid the label “Stage Mom”) the first time I encountered the play was it’s first production at Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke.  I was impressed by Hartford’s ability to intertwine message with art. I was even more impressed by my son’s portrayal–so much so that I had to remind myself that was my son as his portrayal was so committed.

I decided my home town of Radford and the surrounding New River Valley needed this message. I approached the high school principal, and superintendent. It was made clear that there wasn’t money for the project. But I found out that Roanoke Children’s Theatre was only charging $600. “That’s raisable”, I thought. And so it was. Thanks to a generous donation from Diva’s of the New River Valley, and wonderful caring citizens of the NRV, I raised nearly $1000 to pay for the show and to help with promotion and publicity. This is what community engagement is.

It feels good to be able to follow through on an inclination. I hope I’ve done my job in getting the word out. Here is our Facebook Page, and here is an article posted oh, like 30 minutes ago.

Art can heal. Art does heal. Art reflects humanity. Dante said in the interview today (and I paraphrase), “You can google statistics, but this play, this story will stick with you in a different way. Kids who use to joke about suicide won’t be able to after seeing this. It’s not to be taken lightly.”

Happy Birthday, Stieglitz!

Happy Birthday, Alfred! Born January 1, 1864, Mr. Stieglitz would be 149 years old. He didn’t make O’Keeffe who she was, she did that all by herself and her experiences–but if it hadn’t been for his exhibiting her, supporting her in her early years of developing her own style, even provoking her–it may have taken us longer to be able to appreciate her art.

My favorite Stieglitz quote:

“I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for Truth my obsession.”

Thank you, Stieglitz, for being art’s champion.

Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz, the father of modern art.
Flatiron Building, NYC, by Alfred Stieglitz


Alfred Stieglitz, the father of modern art.