James Morrison's Leave Your Fears Here is about fear, deathly illness, triumph over adversity, and hope – but it is a love story at its very heart. It is a portrait of one man's passionate, all-consuming love for his family, a love that endures a trial by fire, emerging at the other end stronger, more certain, and all too aware of the fragility of life.
Seamus is James and his wife, Riad's son. Seamus was a tap dancing, Charlie Chaplin obsessed, hyper-articulate, ten-year-old when he started having painful headaches. The headaches were brushed off by their physician as "growing pains." The headaches soon progressed to gait changes and coordination issues culminating in a frightening incident of vision loss that drove the family to rush Seamus to another doctor. From there, it was a short seventy-two hours from the onset of the vision problem to their child being rushed into brain surgery. Seamus was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a rare condition that occurs in only about five in a million children. The diagnosis plunges the family into a grueling cycle of treatments, side effects, steps forward and setbacks.
The story is not told in a linear fashion, hopping back and forth in time using a series of moments that together form a larger picture of how the disease affects not just the person who is ill but all of those around them. Morrison is a large presence, and a masterful storyteller whose rapport with an audience is instant. Often his frustration and fear manifest as rage. When he confronts the officious administrator of a facility that offers a treatment that could possibly cure Seamus but won't allow it because, as she bluntly informs him, "It's not profitable," we, the audience, are also enraged.
The show is interspersed with Seamus' poetry. When he emerged from his surgery, he could not speak or see but could write. And write he did. "A bird is a poem that has flown in on wings" is just one of the memorable lines from his work. Morrison's language is poetic even as he speaks of difficult situations and hard truths.
The show's title refers to a bag that hung outside Seamus's hospital room door, a reminder of the importance of hope over fear. While Seamus is today a thriving artist with multiple college degrees, his illness changed not only himself but his family. Leave Your Fears Here tells us that "poets don't become poets; they've just been waiting to meet their poetry." Morrison and his son met their poetry in a way none of us would choose. Yet, they have created something beautiful that reaches out to their fellow beings giving us hope amidst the turmoil.
"Leave Your Fears Here "
Written and Performed by James Morrison
Directed by Robert Egan
June 30 – July 10, 2022
Great Barrington Public Theater (Great Barrington, MA) https://www.greatbarringtonpublictheater.org/
Wendy Lane Bailey has a powerful classic pop voice and a rather cavalier attitude towards the idea of genre. Wendy-Lane’s debut solo recording, Breathing, was produced by composer/arranger/pianist Michele Brourman. Her performances in venues across the country have earned critical praise for versatility and sophistication. She has appeared as a guest artist on multiple recordings, including Leslie Gore’s and Susan Egan’s. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, HB Studios and the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. Off-stage Wendy Lane is a creative advocate for artists. While living in Washington, D.C., she founded a regional networking organization for musicians and for five years, was the Associate Director of the Cabaret Conference at Yale University. She received a 2007 Bistro Award for outstanding achievement and was nominated for a Washington Area Music Association Award. While serving on the board of NJ’s Pioneer productions, she produced, directed, and appeared in several theatre pieces. She is currently developing Hot Coffee, MS, a solo theatre piece with music in collaboration with Michele Brourman & Gretchen Cryer. In 2020, she accepted the position of Assistant Artistic Director of the United Solo Theatre Festival. In addition to her performing work, she teaches and consults privately and in master classes for singers of all genres.