I have spent the past few months doing my best to remember why exactly it was that I first began to put this piece together years ago. There have been many nights of scrolling over the pages, thinking to myself "why on earth did I write this?" Even more bewildering, "Who wrote this? What does this play testify to regarding who I was at the time?" Although this is a piece I have tinkered with for many years, I wrote the first version of it sitting in a college library in Boston. I felt myself coming into my adulthood in a variety of ways every day, and I guess what struck me most is how waves of regret, especially as I got closer to graduation, would come over me in nearly uncontrollable intervals. Not that there's any defining moment or pivotal event that particularly haunts me; rather, it's a notion that something was slipping away from me, something that I would never have back again. Maybe I can call it youth, innocence, lack of responsibility, anything symbolizing a moving on from what I perceived to be my childhood. Whatever the name is, it was a notion of fear or dread that I was missing something traveling away from me that I would be unable to replace.
At the time, at found myself interested in memory plays, particularly those involving someone older reflecting on their lives in one form or another. I was immediately drawn to the life experiences that the people in these plays had behind them, and the psychological effects that exist as a consequence of their pasts. I especially enjoyed the plays that play with time in a nonlinear way, that bounce back and forth between the audience's perception of past, present, and in some cases future. One of the first times I was exposed to this manner of storytelling is when I saw a production of Death of a Salesman when I was about ten years old. Although I did not fully pick up on every aspect of the story, the nonlinear projection of Willy's inner life was unlike anything I'd seen onstage before.
From when I was much younger, even before I really took theatre seriously, I was very into crime. Not necessarily the events themselves, although those were certainly of interest to me as well. Rather, I was intrigued by the motives of the actions, as well as the psychological manifestation of the crime after the fact. What separates those who show remorse and those who do not? How do these events affect all people involved? Why do some of these events attract attention, while some avoid any form of public attention at all? This question, in particular, was on my mind at age fifteen when I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper after a public outcry regarding a sex offender being released from prison into a wealthy community. The letter, in part, reads,
In response to the numerous articles devoted to the recent release of convicted serial rapist D.P., I can completely sympathize with residents in their fear and disappointment in learning that they will now be living in the presence of a convicted sexual predator. I know that I would be uneasy if I were in this situation. But what about other communities in the state that have had sex offenders released into their neighborhoods?
Looking on the U.S. Department of Justice's sex offender registry website, I see that Mr. P is joining five other sex offenders who live in (the wealthy community in question). However, when I look at the number of sex offenders who live in (a nearby lower income community) I see there are 471.
I do not recall seeing any of those convicted sex offenders get nearly as much attention from government officials or press coverage upon their release from prison as D.P. has recently.
I came across this letter a few months ago, after I had written most of the play. I had completely forgotten about it until I rediscovered it at my parents' house in Connecticut. To me, it reflects that I wrestled with these questions from an early age, and, having written a play about them nearly a decade later, still ask them to this very day.
Charles Coursey Jr.
There will be a reading of "Projects" on April 28th at 6pm at The American Theatre of Actors 314 W 54th Street, NY, New York in conjunction with Raddfest 2016
Tickets Available here.