Writing a memoir takes guts. Allowing the world an honest peek into one’s soul is undeniably bold. Local playwright, actor and EMU Alumnus Ted Swartz says, “a memoir is not history; it’s the author’s recollection of events, which may be different than another’s viewpoint of the same event.”
As if putting these particular, vulnerable recollections into print form isn’t hard enough, Swartz takes the art of the memoir a step further in his new work, “Laughter is Sacred Space”.
Swartz’s memoir will be available as a book, but on September 14 and September 15, it will also be presented in the form of a play.
While a memoir produced as a drama is somewhat rare, it is not at all unexpected coming from Swartz. Swartz has been writing and per- forming plays for around 25 years. He performed during EMU’s Orientation Weekend just a few weeks ago.
Swartz’s sketches and plays have generally involved the telling of biblical stories in ways that leave the viewer enlightened, hopeful, and often-times inspired.
Swartz maintains the poignancy and emotion of the original stories while stirring in a strong, delightful comedic flavor.
This time Swartz turns from bringing to life long-dead biblical characters to portraying someone still very much alive: himself.
In true memoir fashion, Swartz writes about his Mennonite childhood, his failing business in early adulthood, and his marriage.
Where this particular book and play combo differs from the norm is in its reflection of several different journeys woven into a whole. Swartz says his writing “reflects…a theatrical journey, a creative journey, a journey of grief and healing, a spiritual journey wrapped around the strengthening of my resolve to still claim the role of artist and actor.” While Swartz admits writing his first book was a challenging endeavor, he is very comfortable on the stage. “It is great to put voice and body to the words on the page,” he says.
Another interesting thing about preforming a memoir in front of a live audience, rather then having the audience read, is that fact that there is a huge difference in the pacing. Swartz says that with a book, the reader “can go back and check de- tails and [the] timeline.” “Theater,” he adds, “has to bring [the audience] along.” “Laughter is Sacred Space,” the play, will be shown at Court Square Theater in Downtown Harrisonburg. Tickets are available online at the Ted & Company TheaterWorks website.
Because the September 14 show also marks the release of Swartz’s book, there will be a book signing after both weekend performances.
This combination of theater and literature makes Swartz’s memoir supremely enticing. The tangible, long-lasting book version of Swartz’s story will be picked up and dusted off again and again; the fleeting, 80-minute play version will be watched only once but meditated on long after.
-by Ryan Eshleman, Staff Writer