About Leave Your Fears Here

SYNOPSIS:

In this intensely personal one-man play, award-winning actor James Morrison recounts his beloved son’s struggle with and ultimate recovery from brain cancer. It is a tale of losing a language and learning a new one, of a child teaching the parent, and the power of hope in the darkest of times. Please reveal the ending to your friends. It may save us all.

HISTORY: 

The play began as a 15-minute monologue called “300 Steps,” about walking from the main entrance of Children’s Hospital L.A. to the room I lived in for three months with my wife and 10-year-old son, Seamus, as he was being treated and recovering from brain tumor surgery. I read it to the company of actors and writers in Risa Bramon Garcia’s In Rehearsal at The BGB Studio in Los Angeles, and after the reading, one of the company members said, “I’d watch ninety minutes of that.” That’s all I needed to hear. I had permission to tell my story.

Two months later, I had the first draft and I read it to my friend Kim Maxwell in Ojai, one of the co-founders of the Ojai Playwrights Conference. She offered some valuable dramaturgical feedback in addition to suggesting I submit it to the Conference for development. Robert Egan, the Artistic Director/Producer and co-founder of OPC, and I have known each other and worked together since the mid-1980s, so it was a no-brainer. About a month later, I got an email from the OPC literary department asking for a draft of the play. Three months, and several drafts and submissions later, I got a call from Bob inviting me to join them to develop my play and I told him I would only do it if he directed it. He consented and here we are. 

Bob recently called upon the playwrights to share some thoughts about our experience at the Conference. This is what I wrote:

In the third act of my life, after forty years of work as an actor and writer, nothing compares to being seen and appreciated, respected, encouraged, and assisted, my work and vision cultivated in a such a collaborative, caring and creative free exchange of ideas, as it was while my play, Leave Your Fears Here was being developed by the Ojai Playwrights Conference.

In my lifetime thus far, I can winnow down the number of determinative events, those things that have defined who I am as a person, to four: 1) Meeting the love of my life, 2) The birth of our son, Seamus, 3) Seamus’ bout with brain cancer at ten years old, and 4) The play I wrote about how he faced it, was cured from it, and how he and that event changed my life and how I perceive our mission as human beings.

Under the nurturing guidance of visionary director and dramaturg Robert Egan, who saw what my intention was when I didn’t, and deftly, kindly and generously facilitated my realization of it from the page to the stage – which is the dream of both the playwright and the actor, after all – we were able to create what I feel is more than just a one-man play. It’s a father’s admission – my thankful insistence – that none of us can make it alone in this all-too-brief life and that making that need for unity, oneness, and service known to each other is essential to our survival as a species. The Ojai Playwrights Conference proves and provides that code of conduct year after year, like no other collaborative ensemble of artists I’ve ever had the honor of being invited to join.  I’ll be forever grateful for their generosity.

Creative Team

James Morrison – Writer/Actor

As a writer, his plays have been produced and developed by the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Sundance Playwright’s Lab, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Salt Lake Acting Company, Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the Road Theatre, and more. As a filmmaker, James co-produced and directed the documentary, Showing Up: A Conversation About the Audition, with his wife of 30 years, Riad Ghalayini. Showing Up is available for streaming on Amazon and purchase at www.showingupmovie.com His short film, Parking, appeared at over 50 festivals world-wide and won numerous awards, in addition to screening on Sundance Channel.

As an actor, he will be remembered for his 4 seasons on the Emmy winning drama, 24 as Bill Buchanan, and most recently as Warden Murphy on Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return. James had recurring roles on ABC’s Private Practice, Revenge, and Hawthorne for TNT. He starred as McQueen on FOX’s cult sci-fi classic series Space: Above and Beyond and has guest-starred on such shows as Law and Order: SVUMajor Crimes, NCIS, Law and Order, Los Angeles, Six Feet Under, The West Wing, Frasier, Cold Case, The X-Files, as well as the PBS American Playhouse production of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People to name but a few in a 35-year-span. His film credits include Relish, Doubting Thomas, Meanest Man in Texas, The Jazz Funeral, I Am I, Wilderness Survival for Girls, The One, and Catch Me If You Can.

On stage, Morrison served his apprenticeship at the Alaska Repertory Theatre (he grew up in Anchorage) and has appeared at the La Jolla Playhouse, the Mark Taper Forum, Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, the Salt Lake Acting Company, The Old Globe in San Diego, the Edinburgh Festival, (Fringe First Award) and London’s West End at the Donmar Warehouse. James has had a productive 35 year collaboration with L.A. Theatre Works and their radio dramas, appearing in nearly a dozen of their productions as well as a national tour of In the Heat of the Night. He has received the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award and three Drama-Logue Awards for his performances.

James has been a student of renowned acting teacher, Harry Mastrogeorge since 1982 and was on the faculty at L.A’s BGB Studio for almost a year, passing on what he has learned. He taught yoga classes for ten years at the Yogaworks Center for Yoga, after receiving his teaching certification from the acclaimed White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, where he also taught and now serves on the Board of Trustees. James is honored to serve as an Ambassador for Earth Angel, an organization founded to help motion picture and television production companies reduce their environmental footprint.

James lives in Ojai with his wife and son, Seamus. For more about him, visit  www.jpmorrison.com

Robert Egan – Director/Dramaturg

Robert Egan has served as Artistic Director/Producer of the Ojai Playwrights Conference since 2002. He is also Founder and President of RHEgan Productions, LLC where he conceives, writes, produces and directs major live events and media projects celebrating non-profits like Cure Autism Now, Operation Smile, LA Team Mentoring, Global Green USA and Homeboy Industries. In 2012 he was named the Artistic Director/Producer of Wattsmedia, Inc., one for the nation’s leading companies in strategizing and creating live events and media for corporations and non-profits across the country. Prior to the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Robert served for 20 years as Producing Artistic Director at the Mark Taper Forum, where he was Director of New Play Development and Founder and Producing Artistic Director of its prestigious New Work Festival. He was also Associate Artistic Director of Seattle Repertory Theatre. Robert has produced, directed and dramaturged more than 350 new plays in the United States and Europe.

Testimonials


“An extremely moving play by an extremely moving performer. I was moved by this powerful story about the love of a father battling for his son against a life-threatening illness and a challenging medical care system.” 

– Norman Lear

“James Morrison’s one-person play, LEAVE YOUR FEARS HERE is a deeply personal journey, a powerful and painful (yet often funny) story from James’ POV about his wild odyssey alongside his son’s battle with brain cancer, and ultimate triumph. James started to write a piece about his son, but it turned out to be the story about a man finding his humanity through his son, Seamus’ journey. This is one of the most moving, provocative, and well-crafted pieces of theatre I’ve witnessed in a long time. It’s also important theatre- it is about parenting, family, the healthcare system, fear, anger, humility, hope, life, and love.”

Risa Bramon Garcia – director, producer, casting director, writer and teacher, mother.  Co-founder of The BGB Studio in Los Angeles

“LEAVE YOUR FEARS HERE is a riveting, moving, and terrifying story of a father’s fierce battle to protect his son from the “well meaning” caregivers who threaten his healing process from a devastating cancer diagnosis. James Morrison’s expertly crafted one man show, takes us on a personal journey of going to war for the ones we love. James lays open his life, his heart, and his soul, guiding us all to examine the ways we let our own fears keep us from being brave.  I have never been more moved.”

Kelly Wolf – actor, mother  

A journey told with so much presence and emotion that one cannot help but feel James’ work, heroism, intent, and focus along the way.  His illustrious acting career and experience reached another crescendo and epiphany as he lived each nuance of his presentation of the story of fighting for his beloved son’s life. Everyone in the audience was riveted as James emanated wisdom. The event was deep food for the soul and a nourishment of love–an awakening of perception into what really matters in life.

Ganga White – Co-Founder of the White Lotus Foundation

This piece is the culmination of a hard-fought wrestling match with the ultimate— in the themes of love, fatherhood, powerlessness, human vulnerability, meaning and the very nature of existence—James Morrison steps up to the mat and bets it all. Beating the odds with his savage humor, wit, unwavering self-reflection, courage, honesty and a love bigger than life, we are taken on a tremendous, soulful journey. James is one of my heroes, as a storyteller and as a human.” 

Tracey Rich – Co-Founder of the White Lotus Foundation