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23 Oct 2019 12:18 AM | Jenni Munday

By ICWP lurker, Bara Swain

This is my favorite photo.  It was taken on my balcony overlooking the East Village on a hot August afternoon in 2012.  I'd just returned home from the hospital after ten days in the Neurology Unit.  The brain bleed didn't kill me.  One aneurysm was coiled.  I fell in love with several doctors.  My family and friends stayed by my side.  They dazzled me.  They showered me with gifts and small acts of kindness:  a Scrabble game, a new nightgown, coffee with half & half, warm socks, an i-Pad.  Oh, I was happy to be home.  My survival made me feel ... radiant!

Even before my sister posted "Diary of a Stroke" on Facebook, illness informed my writing.  Several months after exchanging wedding vows at City Hall, my husband was disabled by an aortic aneurysm.  When John died in 1995, our daughter was eight years old.  Jessie and I learned a valuable lesson:  You can mourn and still experience joy. 

Today, many things give me joy.  Babysitting for granddaughters Tallulah John and Ellery Connor tops the list.  I serve as the Creative Consultant at an Off-Broadway theatre, expanding opportunities for theatre artists through an initiative, "Urban Stages New Pages."  I’m a member of several theatre companies (Articulate, T.A.R.T.E., and FAB @ Barrow Group), and a spanking new member of the 44-year old American Renaissance Theatre Company.

Daily, I walk 10,000 steps (often with my dog; sometimes with my oldest sister).  I eagerly open my email for good news and bad news.  I celebrate my playwriting successes with a pint of ice-cream or any menu that includes bacon, and I use my rejections to work harder at my craft.

Monthly, I attend collegial and professional playwriting groups, fiddle with my website, and update my resume.  Actually, I have two of them.  One resume is for public use; the other is color-coded by year.  It's called "Since I Had Brain Surgery."  Since my life-threatening illness in August 2012 to date, I've had 21 publications, 69 productions, 41 readings, and 51 honors/awards.  Five films were shown in NYC, several Florida venues, and Ireland; three webisodes just wrapped shooting in LA.  I produced nine short play series at Urban Stages; co-produced nine one-act and ten-minute play festivals at Abingdon Theatre; and facilitated the "Pencils Down: FAB's Monologue Mania Workshop" and reading at The Barrow Group.  I also directed eleven short plays (Abingdon, Artistic New Directions, Urban Stages).  I am fiercely proud of these accomplishments.

Weekly, I browse through the Playwright Forum listings, the Official Playwrights of Facebook blog, the DG Regional Digest, Go Fund Me requests, and the ICWP connect list and eblasts.  The latter caught my eye.  Without hesitation, I donated to ICWP’s new Development Fund to help provide women playwrights with opportunities for women around the world.

In fact, this New Yorker was the recipient of a SWAN Day grant from ICWP in 2009 for my work with recovering drug addicts at Women-in-Need.  The weekly workshop, “Communicate Sober,” was co-taught by Jan Buttram, former AD at Abingdon Theatre Company.  While we’d planned to teach the playwriting course for ten weeks, we offered the weekly class for an entire year, until the outreach site closed and moved to Harlem. The ICWP SWAN Day grant enabled us to present a reading of our work, performed by professional actors at an Off-Broadway theatre. Subsequently, we received an Honorable Mention for our collaborative work by the NY Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts & Media in Jan. 2011 and a Poets & Writers Grant Teaching Artist grant.   Our program was also featured in a Care Management Journal (Springer Publishing), entitled "Who Said 75 is Old?" However, my proudest moment was when two of our students passed their GEDs (high school equivalency test), and received honors in their writing!  It was a humbling experience.

In addition to this integral funding, ICWP has also promoted my personal work: "Raison d'etra" in Mother/Daughter Monologues, JAC Publications (2009); "Unconditionally" in Diverse Scenes for Actors, JAC Publications (2013); and Honorable Mention for "Planned Obsolescence" in the 3-Minute ICWP 3-minute contest (2018)  I completed the play and had a production in January 2019.

In summary:  Over the years, my life has been enriched by small acts of kindness.  And while I’ll never look like this seven-year old photo again, I want to FEEL like it as often as possible.  So here’s the bottom line:  If you haven’t done so already, please consider donating to ICWP’s Development Fund.  This small act of kindness can support and enhance more than one playwright’s life – possibly an entire community!  Just … consider it.

Bara swain, Playwright

Bara Swain's plays and monologues have been performed across the country in more than 120 venues in 25 states and abroad.  NYC theatres include The Barrow Group,  Urban Stages, Abingdon Theatre, Articulate Theatre Company, Athena Theatre, Sam French OOB Festival, Artistic New Directions, Project Y Theatre, Symphony Space, Players Theatre, Rising Sun, Ego Actus, Kaufmann Theatre, Gallery Players, Turnip Theatre, NY Madness, Stage Left, Polaris North, T.A.R.T.E., Aching Dogs, and Greenhouse Ensemble.  Other venues include NJ Repertory, TheatreWorks (TN), Lyric Theatre (FL), New American Theatre and Open Fist (CA), Old Opera House (WV), Potluck Productions (MO), OnStage Atlanta (GA), and Short+Sweet Festivals (Hollywood, Canberra, Sydney, Dubai).


  • 23 Oct 2019 1:46 AM | stephanie satie
    Jetlagged and feeling isolated back in L.A., I read your blog and felt newly inspired. Thank you Bara for your posting and the great photos. Thank you.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 23 Oct 2019 8:25 AM | Bara Swain
      You're welcome, Stephanie! My experience is that writing and illness have a lot in common: isolation. (And your post has inspired me! I've got to get moving on a new piece in my head. At least I know the title, LOL! It's "Validation," another thing I struggle with.)
      Link  •  Reply
  • 23 Oct 2019 6:57 PM | Jennie Redling
    Thanks for this post and joyful photo. Having had plays in reading series at Barrow Group, Abington and Urban Stages, I became ill and have struggled but have begun submitting again. My donation is buying what is priceless and your inspiring words are an example.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 23 Oct 2019 11:58 PM | Bara Swain
      Hi, Jennie, I can relate to that. When I'm recovering from a crisis -- and, sometimes, when I'm in the midst of one! -- I take the path of submitting my work. It shakes off that "powerless" feeling, and the bonus is that I'm doing what I love best: sharing my voice, whether I'm selected for a production or not. But most of all, Jennie, I hope you're feeling better as you navigate your health issues and, of course, your professional goals. My final thought: I browsed through your website. It's impressive and beautifully constructed ... and reveals a prolific writer with extraordinary credits and achievements!
      Link  •  Reply
  • 24 Oct 2019 9:39 AM | Patricia L. Morin

    I am so impressed by your persistence, resilience, and fortitude. Thanks for coming out of your "lurker" space to inspire us.

    Link  •  Reply

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