What’s in a photo?

The cast of TOMORROW MORNING, by Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Co. 2004

Sometimes a photo pops up on social media, and at first glance, it’s just a random photo of random people. To anyone who wasn’t there, that’s all it is; completely unremarkable. It’s a fairly boring photo of some attractive people sitting passively  and fairly expressionless, posing for a group photo. It almost looks like one of those school class photos from elementary school in the way it is laid out. 

However, if you were there, you might be transported to the moment of the photo. There are humans involved, and if you were there,  and in the photo, you know exactly what was going on with at least one of them.  

This photo was an early play done by my theatre company, Mildred’s Umbrella Theater. It was  an original play called TOMORROW MORNING. It was written by our playwright at the time, John Harvey (top left), with input by myself (in the jean jacket) and Greg Dean (down right). We had just had our first successful show a few months before, and we excitedly cranked out another one in a very tight window of time when we had the space again. 

The play was about a train taking a group of people to the Auschwitz museum, but they eat some drugged food and a wormhole opens in time , and they find that they are really going to a concentration camp.  Two of the actors were waiters who turned into Nazis at the end, and one was a singing angel on a separate platform that watched in horror as the events unfolded, and reacted in song.  The idea was really ambitious, and we didn’t have enough time or resources to fully realize the project, and it was kind of a mess when it opened. It had some really good moments, but we needed more time to make it what it deserved to be.  We learned a lot from that show. Here are some photos from the show. they aren’t the best. We were just learning to be digital at that point, but you can tell that the show was far more interesting than the cast photo.

If you just look at that cast photo with us in our street clothes, it looks like a passive cast photo, but there is so much going on when I look at it.   There are so many stories here. 

  1. I think I was coerced into sitting for this photo, and was really about to lose my mind trying to get the show up and not kill anyone. I was pissed off at everyone by about this time  (you can see the tension if you look closely). Not that it was anyone’s fault. I just was acting in the play, and producing the whole thing on a shoestring. Back then, I always ended up dealing with the set, and picking up slack in every area of the show, so I was super stressed out every time we opened anything. 
  1. A few  people in this picture don’t speak to each other anymore. There are 2 friendships and one romantic relationship here that ended  very tragically. 
  1.  There is one person in the photo that none of us talk to anymore. Several of us have that person blocked from our lives in every way.  
  1. Two of these people are now married to each other and living in Europe. I keep in touch with them. 
  1. One of these people now lives in New York, and another lives in Austin. I still talk to them online. 
  1. Of the ones who still live in Houston, I am still very close to two of them. I run into two of the others once in a while, and we say hello and remember each other fondly. 

When we are all gone, this photo will go back to being unremarkable. A photo like this means nothing if you weren’t there.  

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