Thanks Chicago! Help Us Return to NOLA!

March 01, 2018

We hadn't been to Chicago in years. My partner Cody and I got flown in for a new independent production of "Upstairs." It was a truly magical trip, with surprise appearances from several old friends and a chance to visit a museum and a bar or two. It's a great city and it won't be so long until our next visit.

The production itself was revelatory to me. I don't want to single people out, but there were a few performances in a few of
the roles that were unlike any that I'd seen. They brought something to the characters that was new to me and those new wrinkles helped to inform my next round of changes.

Yes, changes. Because it hasn't been published, "Upstairs" has continued to evolve. The core of the story is still the same--historically-informed retelling of the night of the fire followed by a set of imagined meetings among some of its survivors. But it's really become the story of the bartender Buddy and his attempt to make sense of an unspeakable tragedy even as he finds a way to move on. As we follow his journey, we laugh along with the patrons, discover some secrets, learn a few things about trauma, and imagine what drives men to acts of unspeakable cruelty.

So, since Chicago, I've been honing these points and preparing for what's next: a return to the city where we began this journey, New Orleans!

We premiered in New Orleans five years ago with a cast mostly from the Los Angeles area. Since I live in Southern California, this was really the only way to develop the show and get it ready for the 40th Anniversary of the fire.

But five years hence, it's time for an all-New Orleans production. NOLA Voice Theatre is raising money to fund a production based in New Orleans with a New Orleans-based cast and crew. This is very exciting to me, personally, for several reasons.

First, I get to go to New Orleans, which is always a treat. I get to see old friends and make new memories and enjoy a magical city.

Second, I'm sure to get a repeat of Chicago. The performances, coming as they will from people immersed in the character of the city, will be new and exciting and authentic in ways that will bring me back to the script to further improve it. I have no doubt that I will learn a great deal from what I will see.

Third, we will commemorate the 45th Anniversary of the fire and all that has happened since we premiered. Clayton Delery's book, "The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: 32 Deaths in a Louisiana Gay Bar," came out and won a lot of acclaim. Robert Camina's documentary, "Upstairs Inferno" premiered and won a great many awards on the festival circuit. "The View UpStairs" premiered off Broadway. And a new book called "Tinder Box" will be out by June. In five short years, a movement has coalesced to reclaim the history of the Up Stairs Lounge fire and contextualize it for our time. This is to be celebrated and I look forward to that.

If you have the means, please visit to help raise the money to fund the production. Time's running out and they can't do it without the funding!

Thank you.

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