By Darryl Stamp

I’m a note taker. To keep from being bored when I was in school (and even now during meetings) I’d jot important information, memorable comments, thoughts or, uh, damn it, what was it? Oh, and things to remember! That was it. When I did standup comedy, if I wasn’t near a portable television-sized, desktop computer, I’d jot down my crazier thoughts, experiences, and comments I’d overheard for comedy routine material. Napkins, junk mail, matchbooks, pieces of newspaper, toilet paper (don’t judge me, I was at a Prince concert), whatever I could find.

Those experiences carried over to my writing. I don’t mind creating scenes without knowing where or when they will be used. There’ve been times when I had an epiphany (possibly too much caffeine) and I’ve gotten out of bed at night to write it down. A few of those scene ideas have even wound up in a play. Once when I was a Language Arts teacher at a public high school, I had a trying day with a difficult student. When I got home, I wrote down a few, “What I’d like to say if I could, but never would!” sentences as therapy.  I wrote a few responses that were sarcastic, funny, and a few that would probably be cause for termination. It made sense to use that moment in my life as the impetus for a play. That idea developed into a profane, comedic dream sequence at the beginning of my play Dumbed Down, which allowed me to share my thoughts about the school-to-prison pipeline in a dramatic setting.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused me to consider what many of us thought about during that horrific time: my health and safety, and that of those I love and care about. As New Year’s Eve 2019 approached, I saw one of those, “People We’ve Lost” montages, it included a few people in other countries who’d died due to COVID-19. In that moment, I wondered what my life would look like if it was a slideshow or powerpoint if I died of COVID-19. I wondered if my presentation would recall the joy, heartbreak, mistakes, love, and success that’s made me who I am? And if my wife and daughter would be with me in my final hour.   

It elicited in me the memory of all the people, myself included, who’ve had a loved one pass away without being able to be with them one last time. But I also recalled the comforting memory of seeing my mother for a fleeting moment as I dreamed.  There have been other instances when I heard a phrase, song lyric, or read something that convinced me that my mother stopped by to let me know that she’s okay. My belief that our loved ones come back to watch over us motivated me to write my latest play, Go Home Come Back. I hope it reminds us to be kind, loving, forgiving and motivates us to make the best of our lives while there’s still time to do so.

As a writer and a person of color, I’ve prioritized creating characters that have been marginalized due to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, culture, or opportunity. Equally important is that, wherever possible, my writing features women of color in significant roles.

Darryl Stamp is a member of Plan-B Theatre’s Theatre Artists of Color Writing Workshop. His first play, Roar, premiered at Plan-B as part of an evening of short plays titled …Of Color. Go Home Come Back premieres February 24-March 5. Details and tickets at planbtheatre.org – click The Plays.

This article was originally published on January 18, 2023.