What Prompted Me to Write this Show

About the Music

A Note From Writer/Performer Josh Jonas:

This is not required reading, and you should not, under any circumstances feel obligated to go any further. I was "required' to read All Quiet on the Western Front in 10th grade and still hate that freaking book. I would say however, if your eyes happened to have fallen upon this, you might want to see the play first. Purely a suggestion, but I think it goes better at the end than at the beginning. That being said ...

"A deep distress hath humanized my soul"
-William Wordsworth

The last report card on the last day of school was a big deal. In second grade after every quarter, we got our report cards. Each time it was pink, each time it had the teacher's comments hand written in, and each time on the bottom right corner was an empty box. On the final day of second grade that empty box would be filled, and we would all know which teacher we were going to have next year.

Like pundits arguing presidential candidates, we all had very specific reasons why we were praying for a certain teacher.

"Ms. Kelly please Ms. Kelly!! She is sooooo nice and lets you have candy at snack!"

"No way-Mr. McDougal is really cool, and he knows a lot about hockey!"

Everyone knew who they wanted-everyone except me. I didn't know who I wanted, I just knew I wanted to be with Judd; Judd was my best friend. We had made it official by sliding our desks across from each other so the top of my desk hit the top of his. I asked Judd what 3rd grade teacher he wanted.

"Mr. McDougal. He's really funny."

"Yeah me too."

We wanted Mr. McDougal.

At 3:00 o'clock the report cards were handed out and we all tore them open like we were looking for the golden ticket. There were screams of "YES!" and "LUCKY!" and "SHUT UP I DID SO WANT MS. KELLY!" While a few "THIS IS SO NOT FAIR!"'s got shouted around the room. I waited to open mine. I never liked opening presents in front of people and this sorta felt like that. Judd apparently didn't have this problem. He ripped his open and smiled his wide smile, starting to dance in his chair.

"Mr. McDougal! I got Mr. McDougal! Ahhhh Yes! Who did you get? C'mon-open yours who did you get?"

I opened my report card and stared at the box that was now filled in. Our desks were right next to each other. We were best friends, everyone knew we were. My cheeks started getting hotter and hotter.

"What's it say?"

"Ms. Kelly."

My mom picked me up from school that day and when she did, what I had been holding inside from the moment I got my report card came exploding out in the seat next to her as soon as I closed the car door. Tears and seven year old snot were making my face almost shiny as I begged her, or Dad, or someone to please fix this.

"I have to be in Judd's class!" I told my Mom as she brought me in for a hug. I tried to catch my breath as my Mom wiped my face.

"Please Mom, please fix it."

And she did. Mom and Dad both did actually. They somehow convinced the principal, maybe by making the dried snot on her blouse "Exhibit A," that I needed to be in Judd's class. Then all through 3rd grade, Judd and I took turns going to each others house everyday after school. At the end of 3rd grade my family moved, and though our parents stayed in touch, new friends and schools ended our era. But just as important as your first love, or your first kiss, is your first best friend-and Judd was mine.

"There's no center, and it's not gonna rain."

This is how my C'aunt (pronounced Can't-technically a cousin, but more like an Aunt) described Los Angeles to me on my first morning. I moved to LA at the end of August, 2001. Knowing nobody in this town I had never been to, she was generous enough to let me stay in her spare bedroom. We stood in her kitchen drinking coffee and looking out the window, watching a humming bird float frantically around a bird feeder she had put up on the side of her house.

"Like ever?"

"Well, it will eventually, but see the fog right now-it looks like it's gonna rain right?"


"It won't. And in about an hour its gonna be beautiful ... and the same thing is gonna happen tomorrow."

"Really? ... and how long does this go on for?"

"Pretty much ... all the time."

It was nice to know the weather of the next few months so far in advance, but I couldn't tell if it was making me feel better, or just adding to my anxiety.

"Oh! And we are walking distance from a Trader Joe's!!!"

"What's a Trader Joe's?"

"Seriously? ... Okay ..."

And over the next couple of weeks my C'aunt was a great teacher of LA. If you're looking at the Hills, that's North. When talking about freeways, put "the" in front of the numbers. (The 405, The 10.) DO NOT J-Walk. I hope you like avocado. Parking spots are worth your first born. Chinese food is to New York, as Thai food is to Los Angeles. Tuesday and Wednesday is street cleaning, so if you want to sleep late, MAKE SURE you read the street signs.

It was this last one that was in my head when she woke me up around 7 in the morning-a Tuesday-after I had been there for almost 3 weeks. She jerked open the door and started talking at the same time.

"Josh you should get up."

"I'm good, I found a spot last night."

"Josh ... something ... happened in New York." Over the past few weeks my C'aunt had been treating me as a fun game, "Let's play fish out of water!" and she wore that fun all over. This morning the game was gone.

"Happened like what?"

"I don't even know, uhm, these two planes flew into the World Trade Center, and they're saying it's not an accident ... they're saying there's another one in D.C. ... maybe you want to call home?"

"... Okay ..."

I put on sweat pants, and sat on the edge of the guest bed in the guest room. It wasn't until I got to the T.V. that I was given a face to put with the name of the story I was just told. I saw the first tower, and then the second, fall into themselves like vertical accordions into a grey nothing. My mouth might've been open, but I'm not sure. I was handed the cordless phone and told that they were having trouble with the lines in New York.

"I'll keep trying."

I walked outside hitting re-dial over and over, my eyes going back and forth between the perfect cloudless sky, and the bird feeder. After a while it became almost trance-like, the rapid beeps of the dial, busy-busy-busy. After 20 minutes, there was finally a ringing where the busy signal had been. I heard my Dad's voice.


"Dad?!" Was all I could get out before I broke down.

"Josh, we're fine, we're all fine."

"Dad, what's going on?! what's ... I just saw everything, this is fucked!, and this is the last place I wanna be right now!, have you heard from anybody?"

Feelings were coming to me faster than I could convert into words. Anyone that we had ever known that worked anywhere near the World Trade Center came firing out of my mouth, and one by one, my Dad assured me that they were okay. When I felt a relief of not being able to think of anyone else, I wiped my eyes and saw the humming bird was back at the feeder. I let out a huge sigh that I'm sure my Dad heard.

"Josh? ..."

"Yeah, I'm here Dad."

"No one has heard from Judd."

The memorial service was held at St. Pat's church which sits on the west edge of Huntington Village. Over the years I had been past this building too many times to count, and not one of those times with a reason to care. But now here I was visiting from Los Angeles, in the back seat of my Dads car, the whole family going to St. Pat's. Dad driving, Mom on his right, and me staring at the back of their heads in silence like I was 5 and in trouble.

"I don't think I've ever been inside a Church ... except that time you made me take that dance class mom when I was in like 5th grade ... that was in a church right?"


"... Oh, and I saw that 'Tony n Tina's Wedding' show ..."

The sun was starting to think about setting, making it almost bronze outside. People en masse stared at their shoes as they walked into the church- a crowd big enough to make you think there might be a healer inside. As I walked through the threshold I was handed a program, Judd's face staring up from the middle of the paper. I barely looked, quickly folded it up, and put it in my pocket. Mom, Dad and I sat towards the back, and I honestly don't remember much. Speakers spoke, through tears and half dazed eyes, no one knowing where to look or how to move. I felt angry when I told my Dad to stop shaking his leg, and guilty for being Jewish and not kneeling with everyone else. After the service My Dad and I saw Judd's father on the church steps. I said hi, not really able to look at him, and not wanting him to look at me. My Dad put his arm around Judd's father, opening his mouth as if to offer some words of encouragement. But he stopped and the two men just stood side by side, my Dad shaking his head, both of them not able to speak. There was no move to make, there was nothing to say, and the image of these two helpless fathers scared me maybe more than I had ever been scared before. This was all wrong, the entire church knew it, and there was nothing that anybody could do to fix it. Parents had just buried their child.

When I got back to LA I spent a lot of time on the phone with mom. She was, and still is, one of the only people I can carry a conversation with on the phone, and I needed to carry on conversations with someone. I still didn't really know anyone in Los Angeles, and missed home now in a way that was guttural. I got myself to move across the country by telling myself "New York will always be there." I didn't know if that was true anymore. Mom was also close with Judd's family, and so would fill me in on how they were doing. They were not doing well. I wasn't doing well and my family was still in tact, so I couldn't imagine how they were getting through each day. I still don't know how they did, but I think it was me trying to figure out how they could, while also wanting to somehow help, that this play came about.

Though it is mainly the macro that people talk about when we mention that day in September, it is the micro of that day, and the days that followed, that seemed to have found there way into the fabric of this story. When the missing were not heard from, we knew what it meant, though we powerlessly prayed for something different. It was the time when someone lost a son, or a husband, or a mom. And, I am embarrassed to say, it took this enormous event for me to learn the scary fact that those things are not uncommon, and they happen a lot-if I am really honest ... all the time.

So in the end, what came out is something that is one part love-letter, and one part prayer. It is a love letter, not just to my family, but to my home and all the people and places that I grew up with. It wasn't until I left that I realized how much I was where I was from. Though I probably tried to disown all of it at different times, we can be the worst to things we love the most-be them people, places or both. The other part of this is a prayer. A prayer that it is possible to go through what may be the most horrific experience that one may have to endure, and at some point be able to come out the other side, still standing, still able to love, and maybe even wanting to dance every once in a while. I don't know if it's possible, but I pray all the time that it is.