Recently I received the following letter:
The way I came to know of you is this:
I was in Cape Town staying with Janice. I am working on a play about a tragedy that has also brought me to know Denise. I was talking to Janice about the trials of having been an understudy – specifically for Angels in America, Parts I and 2. I told her that I had not been rehearsed on the stage and had to go on for two three hour length parts of that play. In one instance, I was a few seconds late in coming down a revolving platform and got stuck. Who knows what would have happened, if not for an alert stage hand who reached in to pull me out?
Janice got quite upset and told me about what had happened to you, about your horrendous fall offstage. A few days later, at the Naledi Theatre Award ceremony in Johannesburg, I was blown away when you came on the stage. I realised you were the actress Janice had told me about. I immediately bought your book on Kindle and read it all the way from Johannesburg to London, to San Francisco.
I am so profoundly impacted, so deeply touched by your story but also by your light and power which I was fortunate to actually experience from the stage that night. I asked Denise for your email.
I would very much like to be in touch with you. Because of my own tragedy – an avoidable accident that killed my gorgeous 21 year old daughter, Annais in July 2013. I was introduced to Denise Goldin online. I met her at the Theatre awards for the first time. Stayed with her. Did the first reading of my play at her house and then boarded the plane back to California…and of course devoured your book.
I have many things I would like to ask you about. There are many similarities although both cases are different in their specifics. But still, there are elements that screamed out at me.
So, if you would be open, I would love to be in touch.
Very warm regards
I immediately read about Annais on: www.JusticeforAnnais.com and was horrified.
Several dozen members of staff were happily eating breakfast under a large oak tree in Camp Taiwonga, California in 2013. Disaster struck. A thirty foot branch cracked and hurtled downwards, killing Annais and severely injuring several others.
It would appear that six months previously, Camp Taiwonga had been warned about the instability of that oak tree. Nothing was done! The oak tree with it’s overloaded precarious boughs remained untouched. Why had that tree not been looked after and pruned? For goodness sakes, it was a disaster waiting to happen. The entire catastrophe could have been avoided.
Instead a dark haired young woman with dancing eyes is now dead.
Three years later, Penny has written a play about her daughter. That disaster and the resulting anger gave birth to Penny’s writing talents.
“I do know that without that anger, I would never have begun to write the play. It was anger that drove me to the computer and that rage punched word after word onto my keyboard. And yet, suddenly in the midst of that raw anguish, beautiful tender pieces of poetry began to emerge. I have no idea where some of the characters in my play appeared from. They are funny, poignant, honest and compelling. And gradually the story took over. I found I was able to handle it with a gentler spirit. I believe the discovery, tears, anger, shock, awareness and love will affect the audience in different ways. I am hoping that the story will speak for itself.”
Anger is a painful, powerful and complex emotion. Not dealing with it effectively, increases its potential to be destructive. After my fall, how I longed to lash out with my fists or my tongue and deliver ‘felling’ blows. The problem was: my fists and tongue would no longer ‘work’ as they used to!!! I was given a computer and the light began to dawn. My darkness eased as, like Penny, I discovered how through writing I could expel my anger.
With the computer in front of me, I was able to ‘write’. My creativity was given free reign. My anger was the gelignite. Explosively, I wrote about the ‘me’ I had been forced to become due to my fall. The frustration of my deafness, my memory loss, my fury about my spasticity and no longer being able to use my right hand for writing. It all exploded forth onto the computer screen. Those pieces were fuelled by my rage at the way my life had changed so drastically. I had lost control of so many areas of my life. Yet I was lord of that keyboard. That was where I could shout and weep and ‘vent my spleen!’.
Like Penny, I had to turn the pain of my anger and loss into energy for change. It was from those early ‘gnashing of teeth’ that I eventually calmed myself and finally my book My Plunge to Fame was born.
Anger is a useless emotion. The only person it affects is YOU. One has to rise above the anger; to get beyond it. I did this while writing my book. It was a cathartic experience and hopefully the reader can learn something about our wonderful, tragic, amusing, devastating, beautiful and horrific human existence.
Anger has been the fuse for so many works of art – paintings, music, plays, books and poems. Through his monstrous anger at the futility of World War 1, Wilfred Owen created so much powerful poetry. There is a kind of macabre beauty to his poems that contain such a dreadful waste and horror.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.-
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
If you are unfortunate enough to endure some horrifying trauma, I hope that the resulting anger is constructively channelled and transformed into something beautiful. Penny discovered that in the midst of the destruction and horror that surrounded her, there was a chink of light.
And where there is creativity, there is always hope.