The fire 2020

This site has existed for six and a half years. 

In May, 2013 I had a vision, but I hadn’t had a work on stage since college. 

Before 2014, The Feast of Jovi Bono (TFOJB) had a premiere on 42nd Street, NYC. 

I’m not showing up on New Year’s Day to catalogue Fierce Good Causes’ accomplishments, thought the last three years have been extraordinary. Each win came with pain and disappointment. We don’t have money, though we’ve had some great donors and supporters. We don’t have fame. 

We have a lot of stories not yet told, because here at Fierce Good Causes, we don’t move quickly. Most of the time the writing is a great effort. A flare will go up with inspiration that will make a scene, a scrap of dialogue take up a lighted trail — for a while. Sometimes, sitting in my home office here in Estherville, Iowa, I start jumping around with what I think is a burst of creative genius, only to realize the next day it’s not going to work at all. 

All these concepts of a beginning en media res, of rising and falling action, of concise or artistic or narrative stage directions, of scene breaks and structure — they’re all considerations, but I’m here to tell you they’re not story. Story is making the worst thought you’ve ever had into a conversation between mother and son, making the heartbreak you’ve buried for decades into an ingredient that may start with a sunset over Red Rocks in Colorado and end with staring at the wreckage of a collision on the winding mountain road and having all of it — the rocks, the mountains, the snow, the wind become part of you. And that might look like a dance or a love parade of everyone affected by the collision wandering into the space of mourning or destruction.

It might be tragic or sexy or enraging or romantic or funny. The real craft is exploring that, and exploring what live humans can do with the words to bring the experience of that story. 

There’s a place for learning rising and falling action and allusion and allegory and also alliteration. For simile and metaphor. I sense, having been writing stories since before I could really write, that the best place to learn all of this is from reading books or experiencing the plays and films that are somewhat like yours. Find theatrical, cinematic, and literary kindred spirits, then go out and climb a hill and go to a party and travel and have sex and talk to strangers and ride public transportation and love and suffer and sing or play an instrument. Go look at art, go study a tree — not to describe it on paper, but to embrace it with your soul.

Believe in something.

Take action on what you believe.

Conquer your demons, or at least put up an epic fight so they retreat to the caves, because you need your mind and your love and your pain to really tell stories.

It’s scary to embrace that a safe, cozy life seems to be incompatible with creating. 

We do mindfulness here. We meditate here. We believe Tom Chi when he says, “Worry is your mind deciding to suck.” We believe Tom Chi when he describes rapid prototyping. “Doing is the greatest form of thinking.” We laugh a lot. We love fully. What we strive for is to be love. We design a way for our audience, cast and crew to do something about the issues we deal with in the shows. We welcome ideas.

I take sometimes long breaks from setting words to a page to go live something. To launch this year, I’m doing something risky, exhausting, something in which I’m part of a team that has a short but overwhelming and intensive fight for. It’s kind of sudden death — if any member of the team is not cutting it, they’re cut. I could be fired by the time you read this, though I’m building a mini-team and doing my best. If this happens, some of the schisms in our nation and world will start to heal right then, and if the momentum continues, not just hopeey changeey wishes will happen, but the nation will return to its people. My time doesn’t matter. My preferences don’t matter. The mission matters. It’s scary and enraging and risky and exhausting. But so, so worth it. It has caused me to believe maybe the story is not in being paid a little in my other life to record the facts, but in diving into causes and activism full force.

For the next 33 days from Jan. 1, I’m all in. I’ll emerge a creator with more strength and raw energy and take the next risk for the fire that’s within and all around, the purpose that’s more confusing and more clear all the time, the vocation I wished for at a time I had no idea how much sacrifice that required, the transformation that’s being built in ways we haven’t imagined.

Thank you for hanging out at Fierce Good Causes in 2020. You’re part of our story.

Enjoy some of the best life-capture photography, also by playwright/activist Ash Sanborn. 

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