I write what I know. And what I know is my family. I don’t think I would be a playwright without them. I write about family relationships – how we work through them and, hopefully, how we get to the other side.
In the Car with Blossom and Len is based on a crisis my sister and I went through with my dad a few years ago. As it was happening, I remember thinking no one would believe it— the situation was heartbreaking, yet my parents were hilarious. So I started taking notes and throwing them into a file. And then one day, a couple of years later, I knew it was time to write. So I sat down—and the play sort of wrote itself.
I think the reason why this play has resonated with audiences is because so many people are going through this now— taking care of their aging parents and all the conflicting, overwhelming feelings and emotions that go with it – the love, the guilt, the anger, the frustration, the humor, the complicated sibling relationships. I discovered during early readings of the play that people really relate and want to talk about the subject. “Were you peeking in my window, recording our conversation?” a woman asked before telling me her own story. A young man of eighteen told me it helped him understand more clearly what his parents and grandparents were experiencing. Another audience member wrote me a letter to say she and her friends talked about the play on their long ride home. She said it really started a conversation. And that is so important to me.
For years, my dad, who loved the theatre, was upset because I only wrote about the women in my family. He kept asking, “When are you going to write about me? The father character is always on the phone, or out of town, or has disappeared.” One day I turned to him and said, “I wrote a play about you but you may not like it.” He said, “Is it funny? I said yes. “Is it sad?” I said yes. He said, “Then that’s fine. Every piece of theatre needs a mix of comedy and drama. I’m good with it, whatever you wrote.” I asked him if he wanted to read it and he said, no, he wanted to see it. He passed away shortly after. But I think —no, I know— he would have been pleased.
- Joni Fritz