Letters from Co-Writers Michele Farbman & Robert Williams
There are certain stories that can not only be carried by the ones who lived them. The weight and impact, the wounds, go too deep to bear alone. I’ve been trying to tell my brother’s story for 16 years, not only to release it for others to share, but to give voice to those who are silent about their abuse. Over the years, I’ve written it as a novel, a screenplay, a series of songs, and finally realized that I could not tell it alone. My family helped me remember and my co-writer helped me to bring words to the dark corners I still could not articulate, namely my brother’s experiences. This year’s Fringe Festival is the first arena in which people we’ve never met can experience the story’s raw truth. I ask myself over and over why the world needs to hear another dark story. Why do we need to cry together over what happened to my brother? Because crying together, just like laughing together, creates love, and love heals the worst pain. I thank everyone behind the Fringe Festival with all my heart because if our story was accepted to such a public theater festival, someone “up there” must be giving us the green light to tell it.
I once heard that it’s easier to write a true story than a fictional one. I learned quickly that such a rule did not apply to That Is How I Left. Carving out the story of what Jordan and his family lived through was an emotionally treacherous journey that took more than three years to complete. Tackling painful truths that slowly surfaced from the past while co-writing with Jordan’s sister was nothing short of re-living what the family went through. Jordan’s sister and mother were often weighed down by an old grief, painfully touching, once again, the people they once were. We had to stop our writing, sometimes for months at a time, to let the waves of memory resettle. Most painful for them was the impossibility of going back in time to prevent Jordan’s death, or at least to have been able to help him more as he drifted away from them, deciding to leave his body.
Forgiveness for the family’s father, who was the main perpetrator of the abuse, was the most difficult, yet the strongest thread we had to piece together the complicated puzzle of their story. Forgiveness was sought again and again throughout each unfolding scene. It was the tool used to lift the characters out of darkness and into a new life.
The sharing of this private story is to offer to those who are abused a renewed feeling of hope and the knowledge that no matter what, they are not alone. There is life on the other side of abuse.
I’m grateful to have taken part in this cathartic journey. It has given me the chance to sharpen my sensitivity and love for all people through the power of forgiveness, no matter what crimes they have committed.