In 2015, almost 800,000 experienced a stroke. Being an actor who refuses to be upstaged, I survived three. Three strokes that left me partially blind, partially paralyzed, and partial to chocolate pudding.
Much like my strokes, my accompanying “Aha Moments” came in waves.
My first Aha moment came when one of my doctors referred to me as “The Stroke Guy”. I decided right then, in that moment, that I would never again be defined by my stroke. Instead, I chose to use the stroke as an opportunity to redefine myself.
The next one came after my second stroke. I was in the hospital when I realized that none of my friends, family, or even my doctors had any idea what was going on with me. A brain injury is an invisible disability and people have a hard time understanding what they can’t see. Having absolutely no frame of reference for what was happening to me, I didn’t know how to explain it to them. So I started writing...writing stories to find the words to tell them what was going on with me and my brain.
They say a writer writes when they have a burning question that needs to be answered. My burning question became: “How do I explain what’s going on in my brain when I don’t understand it myself?”
As I was writing, a very well-meaning friend came to visit and said “It’s a good thing you’re writing, because you’ll probably never act again.”
That terrified me.
But they were probably right.
I couldn’t see (I had lost ¾ of my vision), I couldn’t walk without a walker, and I couldn’t remember anything anyone said five minutes before, let alone memorize a script.
The thought of not ever being able to act again almost destroyed me...Leading me to my third Aha Moment:
I made a decision right then that I was going to continue writing these stories, but I resolved to write them as a Solo Show for me to perform so that I could prove to myself that I could still do it.
After 3 years of taking classes, writing stories, performing in storytelling nights around town, and workshopping the play, I was finally getting ready to open the world premiere of A Lesson In Swimming with my home theatre company Moving Arts when the Coronavirus Pandemic hit and theatres around the world shut down.
While isolated in quarantine,I was awarded a grant from the National Arts and Disability Center at UCLA. My team and I used that grant to turn A Lesson In Swimming into a fully immersive and powerfully experiential radio play so that I could get the story out to the people who needed to hear it the most - other isolated stroke survivors who needed to know they weren’t alone.
As the world slowly re-opens and it becomes safe to gather again, I look forward to finally sharing A Lesson In Swimming with you on stage. Until then, please enjoy our radio version and feel free to share it with anyone who could benefit from hearing it.