As I emerged from the CoVid cocoon, I took a deep breath and asked myself a really big question. First of all, I was terribly grateful that our family was healthy and had not experienced the virus. So what was I doing with this one precious life I have been given? What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? That’s when the penny dropped. I knew that I had to listen to my heart and follow a path that is not easy, nor has any direct routes to success. All I knew is that I had to do it. I couldn’t not do it.
This is the story of my solo performance play, Mrs. Kelly’s Journey Home. I believe it’s the best thing I’ve ever done and if it doesn’t go any further than that, that’s OK. I’ve created it, I’m developing it and I will perform it. Ideally many times in many time zones. We shall see what the universe has in store. I can’t wait.
It all began about a decade ago, I blame my mother. She was always telling me that I should write a book. At the time I was her caregiver and figured it was her dementia talking and I just nodded and agreed. I had loads of stories and even more ideas. I had always loved to write, but I honestly didn’t think I had anything “book worthy”. I also had a knack for telling stories and becoming characters on stage. I won an acting scholarship to college but decided against a career in the theater because I felt the price was too high and I wanted a “normal” life. I dabbled in local theater over the years and loved every moment of it.
Fast forward to 2020. My work as a professional speaker and storyteller was going really well and then everything stopped, that pesky pandemic. I did a lot of virtual programs but without the energy of a live audience, it was exhausting. I really questioned what I was meant to be doing at this stage of my life. Then I asked myself the big question. If failure wasn’t a worry, what would I like to (love to) do?
The answer was clear. I would love to travel around the world performing my own work in a solo performance show. I thought I needed to write the book first and organize all the stories and determine the concept of the play. I ended up writing the show by connecting my best stories along with the family memoir I had written years earlier. It came together as a play with the theme of life journeys and home jumping out at me. Mrs. Kelly’s Journey Home is a labor of love. It’s a play with humor and heartache with gentle lessons in dementia, hospice, caregiving, and what family means. Immigration, adoption and more than a little Irish humor round it out. While it is a deeply personal story, I believe it has universal appeal.
In Mrs. Kelly’s Journey Home, four characters inhabit the stage, Mary Kelly, Tom Kelly, Mrs. Wilson, and me. There are a few cameo appearances sprinkled throughout but those four are the primary ones. I play them all as clearly as I remember them, it’s as if they are actually present. I am but a witness. I had the privilege of performing for a special audience of one – My Auntie Betty, my mom’s delightful and very sharp 91-year-old sister. When I explained to her that she was not included in the show she exclaimed with relief, “Thanks be to God!”. After my performance, she shook her head and said, “I don’t know how you did it, But you got it just right”. There is no higher praise.
I am working with a wonderful director, Brian Cox and we plan a few test performances in the coming months and the world premiere will be in Ann Arbor Michigan this fall. If you’d like to receive updates about the show, (performance dates, media appearances or other juicy tidbits) don’t worry. I will be sure to send them in future newsletters.
My big idea to get this show in front of audiences and to support wonderful organizations is to offer special performances as a fundraising event. I have done a lot of work in fundraising so it’s a natural way to use my experience and put it all together. Instead of a dinner gala or a golf outing, what about hosting a special night at the theater? A VIP cocktail reception, the performance and then an after-show meet and greet or talkback with the audience. Ticket sales could be augmented by sponsorships and/or a silent auction. If you are looking for a creative fundraising event for your organization, just drop me note and we will connect: Breeda@Breedamiller.com