All posts by Jessica Abrams

Friends With Benefits

by Jessica Abrams

“Everything is copy” — Nora Ephron

We writers soak up the world around us faster than a sheet of Bounty soaks up colored liquid in the commercials we’re all so familiar with. Even if we’re not aware of it, we’re mentally jotting down the conversation where a friend tells us about her failing marriage, or the one between two strangers sitting next to us in the coffee shop who are a million times more interesting than the person we’re actually with. I know I do, and it’s so subliminal that I’m hardly even aware of it until days later when I’m in the shower and a character or even a story comes to life.

We’re voyeurs, we writers, always assuming — rightly or not — that other people are more fascinating than we are. And they may well be, simply because they are just that — other; and inhabiting their minds and bodies allows us to momentarily leave our own ceaseless mental chatter behind and begin a fascinating journey without ever leaving the couch.

But what happens when that rich fodder — a/k/a your friends — is in the audience opening night as your play, the one about a couple whose marriage is falling apart, is having its premiere?  What happens when the female half of the couple sees herself being portrayed as harping and controlling and the male half watches himself being an emotional cripple in front of fifty people?  Is it worth it?

I have firsthand experience with this dilemma — or rather, I almost did.  About five years ago a former (somewhat emotionally unstable) boss was apprehended by the FBI following a bizarre coincidence which involved political pamphlets he authored and a bomb exploding in New York’s Time Square.  The story was picked up by some news outlets, but for me it was a personal one, involving a job I loathed at a company in which I was the proverbial square peg and the struggles I was having within myself to find my voice.  The boss and the bomb were mere catalysts for that journey.

When The Laughing Cow, the play that sprang forth from that, was in production and I was publicizing the hell out of it on every platform I had within my reach, I worried: my former boss and I were Facebook friends.  What would he think of my borrowing his story and building a play around it? To make matters worse, he was — is — a lawyer and all too familiar with issues around intellectual property.  I imagined facing off with him at intermission, or getting a scathing email following his having read a synopsis of the play in a local publication.

In the end, nothing happened and I was probably more worried than I needed to be. The truth is, my relationship with my former boss fell into the acquaintance category.  What happens when a close friend sees her/himself in your work?  Is that worth it?

I have a play I’m itching to write that is directly inspired by a friend’s struggles with a wayward teenage son and a marriage that, not surprisingly in its twenty-something years, has had its share of turbulence.  The story burst forth on its own, with a character not unlike my friend in a starring role.  The outline wrote itself, now I just need to fill in the words (because, as we know, that’s so easy).  But once again, I conjure up images of her sitting in the audience during the New York premiere (she lives in New York) and a sickly feeling gripping her innards when she sees a fun house image of herself on stage. What would it mean to our friendship if I were to usurp her life in that way?

Obviously there are ways to embellish the truth and put fat on fact so that its bones are unrecognizable.  But people are a lot smarter than we often give them credit for and friends of writers are known to be extremely smart –which is why we keep them around; in some ways they know we look to them for inspiration and maybe even take a little pleasure in it.  Provided the portrayal contains a few flattering qualities.

If not, then maybe a conversation is in order.  I have no clue what the answer is.  I only know that in my experience real life is always much more interesting than anything I can conjure up; and other peoples’ real lives are endlessly fascinating.  How to negotiate the delicate balance between the two is probably just another burden we artists bear as we embark on our journeys and make our way in the world.



Writing About Writing

By Jessica Abrams

Whenever I submit a play to a festival or fellowship and that cunning little box pops up in the submission form asking to discuss what you hope to achieve if awarded this fellowship or what, specifically, would you like to work on in your play?, a sinking feeling starts to creep into my stomach because I have no idea what I’m going to say.  I do know that it will require pulling something out of thin air that will take more effort than the actual writing of the play did.

In short, I will have bad flashbacks of high school English all over again.

A little about me and my relationship to institutionalized learning: I pretty much hated it.  Sure, I loved when the teacher asked us to be creative and use the material on the reading list to write our own interpretation of the story; but to discuss and dissect something as directed by someone who was often no more interesting than the cardboard holding the pages together caused me to compulsively doodle or get lost in the hairstyle of the person sitting in front of me.  I never understood why we were being led through the beautiful forest and, instead of simply going where instinct took and enjoying the experience, had to keep our heads down and study the compass the whole time.

That’s what these questions feel like; and I’m completely willing to admit these are very much my own issues coming up.

How to answer questions like, “What do you hope to achieve if awarded this fellowship?”  I hope to work with great people who can help me take my writing to the next level.  “What would you like to work on in your play?”  Anything that is keeping it from being the fully-formed, fleshed-out piece of theatre that I originally set out to create.  I don’t mean to be snarky or arrogant.  I really don’t.  I am genuinely flummoxed by these questions, especially when they require an entire paragraph of answer.

But last week I filled out one of these forms.  It took three days.  And something happened: I found myself taking the time to really give these questions some thought — not just so that I would sound erudite and thoughtful and everything that, on a good day, I’d like to think I am, but so that maybe, just maybe, I would find something that I could take with me regardless of the outcome of the application process.

And maybe, in the end, that’s what I hope to get out of this: learning.  A little or a lot.  About me, about others.  About what we do and why and how we do it.  And how that learning can help us grow — not just into the artists we want to be, but into the people we want to be.

Everything Is A Creative Act

By Jessica Abrams

I have a life coach.  I realize this reduces the entire scope of my personality down to a few key points of demographic data, but there you have it.  To say she’s wonderful and has changed my life is another blog post.   I mention her because one of the ideas that she’s dragging me kicking and screaming into believing is that the more creativity you use, the more creativity you get.  Basically nothing is a waste of time — that, as a creative person, it’s all creeks feeding into the same river.

This is a tough one for me.  Somewhere along one of the tributaries of my past, I became indoctrinated with the idea that life is frequently a bitch and then you make time to create.  And you better damned well be focused in that hour you’ve carved out with a surgeon’s knife because in the next one lurks a call that has to be returned or a bill that needs to be paid or a baby shower that needs to be attended.  I also always believed that I must be choosy with the projects I invest time into, as if somehow I had a crystal ball and could look into the future and see a production or a script sale.

I’m by no means renouncing the laser-like focus it when it comes down to simply getting the work done.  But what if everything — that annoying baby shower that takes up way too much of a Sunday, for instance — what if it’s all a part of the same creative organism?  Or just the same life organism?  What if it actually gives you more than it takes away?

I’m trying this on for size.  And by that I mean, repeating the idea to myself a few times a day, as I’ve been instructed to do.  It requires letting go of my ideas of where something will or won’t take me.  To continue with the river metaphor: the goal may be to get to that great big ocean, but what about the new growth that springs up when a once-fallow area suddenly becomes irrigated? I realize I’m in way over my head in environmental science arena, but I think I’ve made my point.

If my own past serves as a lesson, I’m reminded daily of the job I took as a social science field interviewer–a job I knew nothing about– which, in short order, led to an amazing friendship and creative partnership, the aforementioned life coach and a web series called KNOCKING ON DOORS (based on said job) that is currently on YouTube.  Recently I was in Indiana doing just that, knocking on doors, and in between my own private bitch sessions about the lack of decent food, I came up with ideas for more webisodes.  Years ago, a studio job I held for three long, miserable years became fodder for a play set in — you guessed it — a movie studio.

But something tells me it’s not just about material to use in my writing.  It’s looking past that and into the great beyond — life itself, and the weird and wonderful places it will you when you commit and give and then let go.

I’m working on it.  Like I said, I have a really good coach.

The 2014 Female Playwrights Onstage Festival

Planting the Seed poster update

By Jessica Abrams

Last Saturday I had one of the most amazing experiences a playwright could ask for.  No, it didn’t involve megastars or a cash prize that could allow me to pay rent for the next two months without worry AND take a vacation.  I had coffee with Kate Bergstrom, the director of the Santa Barbara “arm” of the 2014 Female Playwrights Onstage Project (of which my short play, “Happy Returns” is a part) and Emma Fassler, the actress reading the lead part in my play.

The enterprise — as it should be called — is the brainchild of our own Tiffany Antone, whose energy and passion I really wish they could bottle and sell.  The project involves readings of short plays all over the country, plays chosen by a unique peer review process.  Tiffany can describe it better than I can:

Little Black Dress INK      invites you to Santa Barbara this weekend for an evening of new plays, yummy wine, and creative introductions!  Experience our ONSTAGE Project at Left Coast Books this Saturday, April 12th at 7:00 p.m.  Directed by superstar Kate Bergstrom, this event features seven new, short plays by Katherine James,  Anne V. Grob, Christina Pages,  Jessica Abrams, Inbal Kashtan, Sharon Goldner, and Katherine Bergstrom.  This is the first of four semi-finalists festival readings occurring across the states this month, with a reading of our finalists going up in LA in May.  Over 60 artists are coming together in 5 cities to bring 28 new plays to life – we SO hope you’ll be join us this weekend in Santa Barbara as we kick off the festival in style! 

So there you have it.  60 female playwrights in five cities all over the country.  Which means in Waco and Ithaca and Santa Barbara plays by women will be read, enjoyed and discussed.

I entered my play because I absolutely love the idea of the peer review process.  I love reading the work of other women and having them read mine.  We learn so much about each other — about who we are and what we’re writing about and, above all, why we’re writing from the process.  I am honored to have been chosen.

So, as the fabulous Kate  and the amazing Emma and I sat discussing my play and plays in general and work and life under the Los Angeles sun, I had to pinch myself.  This is perfect, I thought.  This is why we do it.

Meditation on Validation

By Jessica Abrams

Can I bore you with details of my morning routine for a moment? First things first: coffee — I’m old-school; I use a silver stove-top espresso machine and Cuban coffee that’s a cocoa bean or two removed from chocolate milk. While it’s brewing and filling the house with the most amazing odor known to man, I feed the cat, clean the litterbox, and make my bed. Then, I take my coffee, now mated in perfect harmony with soy milk, to the floor of my living room where I begin a yoga practice that has been in place for close to fifteen years. It’s not virtue I’m after, it’s sanity: without it, I am not fit to engage in social discourse with another human.  In fact, without it, even animals should be afraid.  It, and the meditation afterwards, allow me to show up in the world in the way that I want to show up: relatively calm, often friendly and — for the most part — sane.

But about a quarter into my meditation, something gnaws at me.  I try to ignore it, but my mind wanders toward it, like my dog used to do when she knew there was a chicken bone lying on the sidewalk halfway down the block.  Not now, I tell myself; focus, dammit.  I try, and for a few minutes I succeed, but then I jump up and run to it; and as I see it come to life, my body relaxes — really relaxes, as opposed to yoga relaxes — like a junkie immediately after a fix.

I’ve turned on the computer.  I’m connected to the cosmic life support that even sleep and coffee and yoga haven’t kept me from craving.

What is it about seeing that gmail button sink like a soft pillow beneath the weight of my pointing arrow?  To see the list of emails line up like handsome cadets in a Taylor Hackford movie?  What about it causes me to interrupt my meditation — the only meditation I will most likely do for the next twenty-four hours?

There is the fact that I’m single, and email is often the first contact I’ve made with another human in my post-yogic state.  But if I’m  honest, I’d say it’s anticipation (cue the song).  Anticipation of that special email — the one with a star next to it whose subject line doesn’t mention something about a deal for a facial or a petition to fight the jailing of an innocent Russian pop singer.  It’s the one that says you won a contest or booked a job or even just have an audition.

It’s the one that, for an artist, says you exist. 

Most mornings I do not get those special emails.

So I started to ponder that craving for validation because, all joking aside, the need for a “fix” was starting to feel a little too real; and the flip side, not getting it, was responsible for more blah days than I wanted to admit.

For some reason my own self-initiated projects came to mind: a play I wrote and self-produced.  The web series I wrote, produced and star in.  Are those projects of any less value because I made them as opposed to Center Theatre Group or HBO?  Talk about commitment and confidence: Tyler Perry self-produced and self-funded his own work for years before someone paid him to do it, and even now, he retains full control of everything his company turns out.

Then, a funny thing happened: in stepping away from the slightly desperate need for outside validation, I started to see the broad sweep of my career.  I started to realize I’d be doing it whether someone tells me I fit into their idea of brilliant or not.  I’d do it even if the letter I’ve ceremoniously placed on my makeshift altar that informs me I’m a semi-finalist does not yield another that says I’ve won.  My epiphany (if you will) has given me a renewed commitment to my art.

And that (and my coffee) is what gets me up in the morning.

Training Days

By Jessica Abrams

Even though numerous astrologers predicted otherwise, last Spring was not a good time for me. It felt like the footprints of my path had become etched in the kind of material that no ocean wave could erase and make new again. Certain areas seemed stuck — the minor ones like money, career, and relationships.  I wasn’t sure how to unstick them. So when I saw a notice in a theatre Yahoo group seeking actors to work as field interviewers for a social science study, I immediately responded.  Compared to Craigslist with its calls for egg donors and depression sufferers, this sounded downright promising.

After two phone interviews, I was told I had the job.  Did I mind going to Washington, DC to train on the company’s dime for two weeks?  No, I certainly did not.  There were a lot of letters in the company’s name.  There were also a lot of companies: one did payroll, one worked with the company doing payroll, another was the one I would actually be reporting to.  To this freelancer, it felt like I was entering a corporate morass from which I might never emerge.

So, when I arrived in Washington, DC and checked into a hotel room the size of my entire Hollywood bungalow, anticipation had built to a fever pitch.  Did I mention I was also broke, scared, and prone to moments of existential angst that would force me under the covers for long periods at a time?  The resounding question that kept repeating itself was, Is this really what my life has come to?  A Hilton Hotel in a DC suburb and a company with a weird name?

The answer to that is, of course, no.  It started with a no when I forced myself — yes, it was an act of sheer will  — to let go of any ideas I had about who I was, ideas I’d been carrying around with me like a knapsack loaded with rocks.  I did this by praying — yes, praying — to be released from the clutches these ideas had on me, to truly believe that I might not be who I thought I was.  It didn’t hurt that I met some really nice people, many of which were also creative types looking for flexible work, and that the managers were caring, maternal women wanting us to succeed (how often does one find that?).  Ever so slowly I began to give in to the job, to the work, to passing the various certifications necessary to do the work.  I also began to make friends.

One such friend was also an actress from LA.  We talked, we shared stories, we discussed ways to combine our talents so that maybe, one day, we could make money doing what we love.  Fast forward to being back on LA soil.  She introduced me to her life coach.  Said life coach encouraged us to shoot something to get into the Screen Actors Guild.  One morning while meditating, an idea came to me: we would do a web series based on the work we just trained to do.

Our web series, KNOCKING ON DOORS, was born.

The rest is the stuff you hear about but often (I did!) cast a jaundiced eye over: cast and crew came together in this miraculous way, everyone agreeing to work for free.  A Director of Photography and an editor just got it.  In fact, everyone just got it.  It was also the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.  We shot five episodes and will shoot more.  This little venture turned into something life-changing.

I can’t presume to offer a moral to this story.  What I will say is that, at least for me, change happened in a way I would never have predicted it; and so from now I won’t pretend to know when something might be good for me.

Or when that suburban hotel room might offer something besides expensive bottles of wine in its minibar.

KNOCKING ON DOORS is up and running:


Everything I Needed To Learn in Life I Learned Making A Web Series

By  Jessica Abrams

I co-created a web series that I wrote, directed and starred in.  It’s called KNOCKING ON DOORS.  The process is not for the faint of heart.  Or rather, it required — for me, at least — the kind of candid self-scrutiny usually reserved for long-term relationships or the therapist’s couch (or long-term relationships with the therapist’s couch).  But I made it through and even learned a few things — things that extend far beyond audio files and title cards and even the limitlessness of cyberspace and into the universal experience of being human on this planet, right here right now.  I’ll try to distill them down to some key bullet points:

JUST DO IT.  I learned that Nike’s mantra extends well beyond running that 5K.  As someone with a long history of thinking rather than doing, I was surprised at my ability to turn words on a page into words on a stage — i.e., an apartment with some lights and cameras and a person shouting “action!”.  As writers, we write to be produced and published but we also write to be read.  We envision a reader as erudite and discerning as we are — a classy woman with cool glasses who chuckles at our wry humor, possibly letting out a giant guffaw when no one’s around.  That’s what we hope for — at least I do.  But writing five pages of words to be said not only by actors you deeply respect, but by yourself is another matter.  Those funny pieces of description don’t carry as much weight.  What matters is — here we go again — JUST DOING IT.  I know this because I agonized over each and every one of the five scripts I wrote — not because I wanted them to be perfect; I wanted them to be.  There was a group of people assembled on a specific day, a day they did not have work or auditions or family in town.  It was write or die.  Miraculously, I am still here.

ONCE YOU DECIDE TO JUST DO IT, THE UNIVERSE JUMPS IN AND HELPS.  I’d never fully experienced (or been aware that I was experiencing it) the way things just come together when a decision is made and a huge leap of faith is taken.  A sound operator shows up on set when you thought you might have to recruit someone in the Home Depot parking lot.  Some of your favorite actors are free and willing to speak your words all on the same day; and various other miracles that, despite your stress and fear, make manifest.  This is the lesson I need to remember every day, regardless of whether or not a camera is rolling.

IT’S ALL ABOUT PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS.  We hear that life is a collaborative effort and as writers for the theatre we are all too aware of this, but as a newbie web series-maker, I relied on more than just a little help from my friends.  I not only welcomed input, I craved it.  Does this line work?  Be honest with me, because we can change it if it doesn’t feel right (note: if it doesn’t feel right, it generally doesn’t look right on camera).  What’s a card reader and how can I get one? Even the ex-boyfriend I ran into who expressed doubt about my ability to go through with this endeavor helped — I was determined to prove him wrong — and for that I am grateful.

LET IT BE.  Nothing’s perfect, certainly not a first-time web series.  Do I wish my sound was better in places?  That I had remembered to wash my hair before confronting the camera?  Of course, and I’ll take the information with me when I do the next five.  For now, I know that, despite questions and outstanding issues, I didn’t let my own crippling perfectionism get in the way of making something that has given me a confidence and renewed sense of purpose and that, in a profound way, has changed my life forever.

Just do it.


Getting the Goal

by Jessica Abrams

I’ve been musing about something for a while now, so when I realized it was my turn to blog, I jumped at the opportunity to make those wayward ramblings of my brain public.

A few months ago I submitted a play to a friend of a friend who was looking to produce some theatre for herself and a handful of actor friends.  She wanted “women’s stories”, she said, something different from HBO’s “Girls”, which she didn’t really connect to; something that spoke to her in a truthful way without the glibness and arch that categorize so many current female-driven mass-produced stories.  I sent her a play about a woman who finds out she’s pregnant and the various people in her life she tells.  She liked it, she said, but it wasn’t for her.  Where are the stories about women being empowered, she asked.  Where are the stories where women are actively pursuing a goal and being the driving force in their own lives?

I’ve thought quite a bit about that lament, probably more so than usual because the taste of rejection was still lingering on my tongue.  But the truth is, not long before I’d seen an article written by a literary manager of a well-known theatre (it was a while ago so specifics are blurry) whose argument for the gender disparity in American theatre was the same cri de coeur: women are not writing about women who are active participants in their own lives. Women are not driving the story.  Female characters are too passive.

This, of course, is up for debate; but it got me thinking not only about my own characters but about the characters that, across all storytelling mediums, I’ve loved and connected to.  I happen to love “Girls” myself, and what I enjoy most about it is Lena Dunham’s Hannah, who is anything but clear-sighted and goal-driven.  Look at Blanche Dubois and her conflicting desires.  Liz Lemon.

The truth is, I find the conflict that is at the core of our being, the struggle to reconcile certain biological imperatives with the world in which we live, to be endlessly fascinating.  That’s obviously a matter of taste, but it does pose a broader question: why insist on telling  male-driven, goal-seizing stories when our biological, social, emotional, and spiritual make-up lends itself to a different experience? That’s not to slap on a set of stereotypes for either gender, but to allow for the innate differences in each, and allow those differences to be reflected in the creative work that each brings forth.  By mandating that women should be a certain way, and that way has typically been more associated with men — male protagonists and men in general — blurs the lines that make our differences, as people, artists and characters in stories, so sublime and rich.

In theatre especially, where the truth of our existence has a better chance of being mirrored back to us, I believe it’s even more important for women to stay true to the types of stories we want to tell, whatever level of “activated” and “empowered” our characters may or may not be.  And I don’t scorn those words by any stretch, I simply yearn for the day when those labels are not the deciding factor in having our voices heard in as broad a scope as possible, and for us to be given the chance to be the fearless storytellers we were meant to be.

A Woman’s Right to Choose

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about choices.

An actor makes choices — some conscious, some not — about how she or he lives in the moment.  Sometimes the choice happens on its own as a result of information that the actor is given; other times the choice is deliberate.  Whatever the genesis, that decision sets the tone and, ultimately the trajectory for the scene, play, movie, TV show or Youtube video.  Because once that choice has been made, the story gains new life.  It moves in a new direction with new choices — again, some deliberate, some not — that present themselves.  My point is, there’s no going back.  The story is in motion, and you’re along for the ride.

In other words, you can’t go home again.

Or can you?  I’ve recently been exchanging emails with a fellow writer/actress who, after years of slogging it out in The Big Apple, has moved back to her hometown in Kentucky.  She will continue being a writer/actress; she will just do it from a place where she can hear the cicadas at night as opposed to police helicopters.  A place where, upon hearing what she does for a living, people actually respond with “Wow, that sounds exciting!” as opposed to a raised eyebrow.

I am intrigued by people who do what we do outside a major metropolitan area.  I often think about moving back to my hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  And when I say “think”, what I mean is, I am lured by a romantic notion that includes a rambling house that I either own or rent for next to nothing with a wraparound porch and a slightly uneven wood floor, twilight cocktails on said wraparound porch, quiet walks in the woods unsullied by the sound of cop choppers overhead (yes, this is a serious pet peeve), and a small group of like-minded people all committed to doing good work.  But wait a minute — don’t I already have that?  That last part?

If there is a center in Los Angeles, I live in it.  Hancock Park/Hollywood is, in many ways, both a geographical and emotional center of this vast patchwork of communities.  The copters — yes, those again — idle overhead when Paramount Studios hosts a big to-do.  Through the windows of my Hollywood bungalow I hear my neighbors talk about auditions and scripts and making a video to jumpstart their songwriting careers.  This often unhinges me when I’m trying to write, and lately I long not so much for a wraparound porch but a tent in the woods and no one for miles.  The radio static of all the creative energy and eagerness to “be something” in this town can get to me.  Try as I do not to care about keeping up with the Joneses — or, in most cases, the wannabe Joneses — it’s hard not to be in a state of constant personal evaluation: Am I working hard enough?  Why did she sell a script and not me?

Then there’s just the energy of it all.  If you believe in it — and I do — a city filled with people striving creates a certain energy that isn’t necessarily the kind that calms you down and lets you look inward.  In fact, it pulls you outward, away from your center as you gaze with envy (and then self-loathing for feeling the envy in the first place) at those around you who seem to have it together more than you do.  But there’s another aspect to that energy: creativity.  It’s here and in spades.  Scratch the surface of almost anyone you meet in L.A. and you find they do something interesting.  New.  Freely and without limitation.  An actor has a food blog.  A food writer plays in a band.

And again, if you believe in energy, I live in a bungalow that once housed writers and producers who were under contract at Paramount in the ’20’s.  In the fifteen years I’ve lived here I’ve come into my own as a writer, and more importantly as an artist.  As a person.  I found my voice here.  I found myself.  I credit the bungalow almost as much as my own determination.

Could that have happened in Chapel Hill?  Or Charlottesville or Austin or Louisville?  Possibly.  But as a single woman not hell-bent on getting married and having a family, I found my people here.  “Here” being L.A.  “Here” being at my acting school, an amazing creative community.  “Here” being with my playwriting group, with my writer friends.  “Here” being literally right here, on this blog.

A better question might be: Maybe you can go home again, but do you really want to?

SNAPSHOT: A True Story of Love Interrupted By Invasion

Sinnott 2 higher res

Mitzi Sinnott has a big story to tell.  Mitzi Sinnott has the kind of story that a writer would kill for, a story that makes most other personal journey tell-alls seem somewhat trivial.  But like all big stories one lives through, the price paid for doing just that — and coming out on the other side — makes the gift of the story that much more deserving (even to those envious writers among us).

In her one-woman show, Snapshot: A True Story of Love Interrupted by Invasion, Mitzi Sinnott tells the story of growing up in the South as the daughter of a white mother and black father.  There’s enough story right there for a novel and sequel, but Mitzi’s father was sent to Vietnam, and the man that returned was not the vital, artistic, loving man she knew, but a haunted shell who was ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Mitzi’s attempts to get to know her father led her to Hawaii where he was living and to coping with the death of the man as she knew him.

She tells this story through re-enacting moments of her childhood: of facing schoolmates who taunt her for being the product of a mixed marriage, of a mother who does her best to keep it together in those challenging circumstances.  She gives us a glimpse into her father’s days in the all-black barracks as he sends letters — and love — to his family back home.  She deftly moves between the roles of unsure enlisted, worried mother, bullying schoolmate, scared little girl and confident storyteller.  And she does it with humor and levity.

That’s the thing: despite the weighty subject matter, Mitzi never asks for our sympathy or pity.  Rather, using various tools to tell the story (projected images, the re-enacting of key moments, even dance), Mitzi shares this rocky journey as opposed to dumping it mercilessly.  It helps that the woman we see in front of us is a sheer delight, brimming with confidence, glowing with the desire to let us in, because we know she made it through to the other side, a better person — not to mention, storyteller — for it.

The gift of her burden will pay her, and her audience, back many times over.

Snapshot: The True Story of Love Interrupted By Invasion plays Thursdays through Sundays through April 21 at the Greenway Court Theatre.

— Jessica Abrams