“The Visit” is an excerpt from my memoir, a short story about my parents’ journey to Rajneeshpuram, Oregon, to visit me on the commune there. Seeing it performed as one of the winners of the 2019 Memoir Showcase was a blast! It was a community event shared with the writers, actors and everyone who showed up on a Monday night to see it. It was like having a party that someone else went to all the trouble of organizing. (Thanks to the producers, Marni Freedman and Tracy J. Jones.)
It is certainly bizarre to watch someone playing your younger self. I had the surprising experience of finding that it enhanced my compassion for her—like getting an outside view into my own youthful innocence.
Tara Sampson did an extraordinary job putting her heart into the character. She told me she was able to do so by tuning in to the universality of family relationships. That’s what it’s is all about isn’t it? I could feel the audience really connecting to her interpretation, identifying with a young woman’s conflict with her father, even though that young woman was living a very different kind of life.
One audience member told me that she experienced, “an emotionally charged peek into an individual, yet somehow universal, experience of seeking to make sense of love and family.” Wow. That meant the world to me. Because, in writing about my experience in a cult, I don’t want to conform to the (generally negative) stereotype of a cult follower. I want to crack it all open for others to understand. After all, dressing in orange doesn’t equate to an entire life, just a slice of one.
I think it is the ingredient known as “relatability” that made all the Showcase entries so wonderful. The stories, from Kilimanjaro to watching an egg hatch, were compelling because the writers—and actors—were authentic. They hit us in that human place where we all reside and relate to one another.
The journey of memoir is a fascinating way to meet people—including yourself. If your own story is pulling you at all I recommend getting out that pen. Or, if you are local, join the San Diego Memoir Writers Association and submit your entry for next year’s Memoir Showcase.