The ﬁrst draft of what ultimately became my play ALLI AND #3 was pretty much a disaster; the only piece I liked was the character of Alli Gator.
To quote #3 from my play, “I think I see the problem.” While working on that ﬁrst draft, I also retired, moved 300 miles away from Salt Lake City (my home of more than 30 years), and lost my mother and my youngest brother. My brother’s death hit me especially hard: he was only 48 and had two young daughters he absolutely adored. In our baby pictures, he and I look like twins.
It’s not surprising that my rewrites weren’t going anywhere. I wasn’t in a good place to write a play about a goofy gator.
So I shelved the project.
When I was ready to pick it up again a year later, I discovered that green herons have been photographed riding on the backs of alligators (I created a new character, a green heron named #3) and that they toss food into the water to attract ﬁsh (so maybe a river brings Alli and #3 together?). I began spending a lot of time with Alli and #3. We three became fast friends.
But I still hadn’t found their story.
During this time, three of my friends in three diﬀerent states were forced to ﬂee their homes due to wildﬁres. I thought about the uncertainty they each faced. I thought about the loss and displacement I had faced. And I found myself thinking a lot about climate science as it relates to the tremendous dislocation of human and animal populations. So
I asked myself, “What would happen to my new friends if their river dried up?” (they would both need to ﬁnd a new home); and then, “What would cause the river to dry up?”(a hotter and drier climate).
This became the story of Alli and #3.
My childhood home was the ﬁrst built in a new suburban development that had been a farm. There was lots of open space—prairies, woods, and a creek—when we moved in. We could wander for miles. All that open space eventually disappeared into homes and fenced-in backyards. What makes my current house my home is that I can walk out my door and once again wander through open spaces.
The loss of home is at the play’s center. We learn that #3 is already a climate refugee; rising sea levels have drowned their coastal home so they are searching for a new one. Alli welcomes #3 to the river, in part because Alli is lonely: all of the other alligators left when the river started to shrink. They become unlikely friends. Soon the river dries up completely and they decide to search for a new home, together.
I am a homebody. Home is an extension of my skin. It is where I belong. (I like the idea of travel but I ﬁnd the actual experience to be stressful: it makes me crabby). I’ve given that crabbiness to #3, who has already experienced great loss. And I’ve given my homebody-ness to Alli, who is afraid of the world away from the river.
My greatest fear with a hotter and drier world is that this home we all share will become so fundamentally changed that it is no longer livable. I doubt there is someplace else we can conceivably travel to, but even if there is, I would be as resistant as Alli to leaving.
My goals with ALLI AND #3 are to tell a story that conveys the seriousness of the consequences of rising temperatures (but is not too scary for younger audiences) and to invite students to join me as close friends of Alli and #3.