From EF—

I’ve had “Thunder Road” and “Fast Car” playing in rotation in my ears. They’ve set me to thinking about our own “Outta Here” times. Both of the biggies were heading west for California, in 1963 and again in 1999.

We latched onto each other in 1960, did the legal marriage thing in 1961, and took off for Stanford in 1963. The two school years of 61/62 and 62/63 were a parade of deadlines, demands, and the endless papers required for CB’s B.S. and M.A. I was working front desk in a dentist’s office and managing our household on a very thin dime. In those years CB produced Brecht’s “Baal,” an edgy disturbing piece that we co-translated, and then “Prometheus Bound,” for which I wrote my first-ever musical score. (In the years to come, there were more than fifty more.)

We were so young. When we married, I was 21 and Conrad, being 19, needed parental permission. We were living in a dismal basement apartment, often seeing each other for only a few fast hugs each day. The bands of constraint were crushing—managing to live on little money, hitting the deadlines for CB’s degrees, and finding what would come next. When Stanford accepted him for a Ph.D. and offered generous financial support, lightning had struck. We knew, at last, what would come next.

The Midwest was all we’d known. California was another world. But it would be thousands of miles away from my mother, and it would be a fresh start. We researched the movers, signed on the dotted line, packed the cartons and climbed into the VW bug, headed west. It was a revolutionary act. I was leaving behind a painful trail of deceit, having presented myself as an education student with a baroque skein of lies, and starting fresh. Whatever we did now, we were doing it together, from a clean slate.

There’s something about driving west. It takes a long time, and takes you through the flat corn-lands where you can hear the wind sing, and across the surreal white sands of Utah, and up and around the merciless mountain roads that killed so many. And then, there you are. You’re at the peak, night has just fallen, and before you is a bowlful of glowing jewels—the lights of the Bay cities. That’s where you’re going.

We did that, and built from there. We made 36 years of theatre as a producing/writing/performing duo, arriving in the 90’s in Philly with two earlier theatre renovations under our belt, and settling into a vivid urban theatre scene. When it became clear that we couldn’t sustain the new expected theatre season of four new shows a year, having cut our teeth on keeping new work in a long-term touring repertory, we had to face a hard choice. We would have to break and run again, leaving behind all our hard-won grant support and our comfortable life. We loved Philly, and it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was brutally clear. If we were ever going to go back to California, it had to be now.

When we moved from Lancaster into our Philly space, we spent our first night in the middle of an immense empty room, 32 x 120, on a sleeping bag with a single candle for light. We made magic in that space for seven years, and once we’d packed for our move west, our last night was just the same: on our sleeping bag in a huge space, with one sweet candle.

So what’s the road ahead now? This time, it won’t be geography. It will be a challenge to see Thunder Road, to get into the fast car toward what age brings. OK. Bring it on.




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