Taking On the Challenge of Our Past

by Tom Keydel

[Linda Jenkins' play, Things I Never Told My Mother was recently produced at Old South under the sponsorship of the Committee on Religion and the Arts on Jan 23-25. The production was very well attended and enthu- siastically received. The following comments are offered by the show's director, Tom Keydel.]

One of the challenges of directing is the task of structuring a story. As I worked on Linda Jenkins' play, Things I Never Told My Mother, I was amazed at how similar the processes of structuring a story and of making sense of our past, as a story, both really are. Not that this kind of work is ever really "done" (certainly that's true of Linda's play which could be staged in many ways) — but equally it's also true of the work of we do when assigning interpretations to what our lives have been and continue to be about, the work of structuring that "story" of what we take our lives to mean.

As a gay man, I have always found it difficult to make sense of "my" story. Reconciling the desire to "fit in" and the need to be just exactly who I am, feels much like the challenge "of making sense." Juggling the imponderable paradox of attachment and separation which riddles all of my relationships forces me to constantly revisit my relationship to the past and how it influences me now.

Probably the most important thing that I got from directing Linda's play was, yet again, another opportunity to take on that challenge. To revisit the many "selves" that I simultaneously embrace and reject because they are so intimately intertwined with those I love — as though the only thing real about any of my relationships is the simultaneous convergence of both a presence and an absence. Just as Linda's mother, in this play, is both a presence and an absence. -- And maybe, for me, that's where God resides.

Making sense of my story — making sense of our human story — by taking up the challenge of our past and reconciling ourselves to the structure of what we take from our stories. I admire Linda's courage. What a gift to find the strength to put it all on paper." +

To contact the author, click here Tom Keydel
To contact the playwright, click here Linda Jenkins

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