The Thrill of My Life: My First Play Will Have Its World Premier Next Month in Columbus

Starting with preview performances before audiences on Wednesday and Thursday, October 16th and 17, and with an official opening night on Friday, October 18th , my play “The Turkey Men” will have a professional production as Evolution Theatre Company’s final show of its season here in Columbus, Ohio.  Information about the play, including cast and crew, can be found at

In a prior blog I reported the circumstances that led to the creation of the play [see “My First Play Will Be Produced Next Year,” May 29, 2018;]. That post describes the play in some detail, but, briefly, it is a comedy/romance that deals with a serious subject.  I had learned of two Civil War soldiers who met at Camp Chase, a prison in Columbus for Confederate captives, with one guarding the other, both quite young.  Suddenly the war ended in 1865 and the one from Tennessee said he had no place to go.  The other replied that he had a turkey farm south of Columbus and invited him to work there.  They raised turkeys for 57 years (!), living together, never marrying, being known locally as “The Turkey Men,” and now buried next to each other (a little off from the other graves), dying in 1921 and 1922, their tombstones marked to show one had been a Confederate soldier and the other a Yank.  No one knows anything about the nature of their relationship.  Speculating that this was a wonderful gay romance, I fictionalized that story, changing their names and turning them into ghosts still haunting their old turkey farm 150 years later.  They have lived through much of gay history but they are now certain that if they materialize they will pop out of existence completely.  The door to the abandoned old house opens and in comes an older couple dragging a 16 year old lesbian entrusted to their care by her parents in a “Pray Away the Gay” scheme.  Much happens thereafter.

[Click to enlarge]

Mark Sschwamberger

I shopped the play to theater companies and in the spring of last year Mark Schwamberger, the Artistic Director of Evolution Theatre Company, sent me an email telling me that the company wished to produce my play.  Frankly, that was the best email I have ever received in my life!  Mark invited me to lunch and even suggested I bring along my actor/director husband, David Vargo (with whom Mark has worked a lot).  At that lunch Mark asked me if I was planning to direct the show myself (I had once directed a show for Evolution  with both Mark and David in it) and I replied no.  I told him that I knew of this director from Florida who now lives in Ohio and, or course, I meant David, who has been handling the creation of the show ever since.

This year Evolution, Columbus’ only L G B T Q Q I A theater company, has become fully professional, with Equity actors and a paid crew.  The season is entitled “History and Mystery” with the shows alternating in themes between those two genres.  Mark told me “The Turkey Men,” dealing with a gay romance from the Civil War, would be the final production of the season.  He was delighted David would direct.

David Allen Vargo

I promised David I would stay out of the production and let him handle it without interference, though willing to do whatever I could to help if asked.  Since then there have been minor changes to the script and a new song added (there was already an existing love song).  I wrote the additional song in one day and we tacked it onto the final scene.

The play has one teenage actor and four older ones, and the latter all are established professionals.  They were chosen by David at open auditions (and he is very pleased with his cast).  Some of them had earlier participated in a reading of the play at our house in 2018.  David and I had also invited to that reading Robin and Peter Hersha, local theatrical benefactors.  They have much enjoyed watching David (and sometimes me) on the stage.  After the reading they said they liked “The Turkey Men” a lot, and Peter suggested two minor changes that I promptly put into the script.  Not long after that the Hershas had supper with Mark, David, and me and announced they wanted to become presenting sponsors of the show.  We were very grateful for their generous additional financial help.

To put the cast and crew into the spirit of the play David gathered them together with the Hershas for an outing.  We met at Camp Chase cemetery here in Columbus where over 2000 Confederate soldiers are buried, then had lunch and went to Pleasant Cemetery in Mount Sterling, Ohio, where the real soldiers whose story sparked our play are buried.  David had James Harper and Ross Shirley, the actors playing the soldiers, dress in period costumes and stand next to the graves.  It was both moving and inspiring.

James Harper and Ross Shirley

Cast and crew (the Hershas in the upper left)

Last Thursday there was a historical discussion of the play and Columbus’ involvement in the Civil War at the Kelton House here in Columbus, sponsored by Evolution Theatre Company.  There was seating for 60 people and the room was packed.  David was the MC and a panel (me and two local historians) explored the play and its historical background.  A scene from the play was also performed, and seeing it was a thrill for me.

Sophia Friend, James Harper, and Ross Shirley performing

As readers of this blog know I judge every important event or decision in my life by what I call the “Deathbed Test.”  The test goes like this: imagine that you are in your late nineties, lying on your deathbed and reviewing the incidents of your long life.  What will make you slap your head in annoyance and exclaim “How could I have been so stupid?” and what will make you smile from ear to ear and think “Now that was wonderful!”?  Anytime something of moment happens in my life I try to think of how it will look from the point of view of that future contemplative bed.  

Other than the brief scene from my show just performed at the Kelton House I have not seen anything from my show.  I am staying away from rehearsals, which formally start at the end of this week, and want everything to be a surprise to me. 

On the opening night of “The Turkey Men” when actor James Harper as Webster Carter walks out on the stage as the show begins, turns on a light, and, per the script, says “I’ll be damned,” I will experience a thrill that will certainly be a joy for any future deathbed retrospective to revisit.  Typing the script on my computer was one thing, but it’s quite another for a live production of my words to unfold itself right before my astonished eyes.

Related Posts:

“My First Play Will Be Produced Next Year,” May 29, 2018;].  

"The Deathbed Test," July 27, 2010;

“The Ugliness of Gay Conversion Therapy,” April 3, 2019;


Popular posts from this blog

How To Write an Effective Legal Threat Letter

The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver

Mortgage Foreclosures, Missing Promissory Notes, and the Uniform Commercial Code: A New Article