Everyone remembers their first love. And everyone remembers what it’s like to lose it. Heartbreak sucks and my first heartbreak was rough.
I was in my early 20s and on the road with a children’s show in Iowa. Before I left for the four month contract, I remember holding my boyfriend tight as we reassured each other it would all be okay. After all, we had done distance before. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything, it turns out.
We were living in each other’s phones. That was nothing new. But as soon as my boyfriend began to express doubts about our relationship just weeks after my tour began, I grew desperate. Phone conversations became competitive and mean. It’s so easy to be cruel when you don’t have to deal directly with someone’s face.
Fearing the inevitable, I often lost my appetite and cried myself to sleep in a series of monotonous hotel rooms in the dead of winter. I remember feeling so foolish and melodramatic, like I finally understood things like Shakespeare and opera when characters would rather die than be without their lovers.
I’m happy to report that four years later, I’m more than over it. Like, very very over it. But along the way, I wrote this play.
I started writing Last Ditch Playlist as a way to cope. It was a cathartic exercise in trying to take these feelings that felt so toxic and turn them into something productive. I finished the first (much, much longer) draft of this play fairly quickly. I even showed it to him. You laugh, but even then I needed his approval rating (thinking critically about theater was a “thing” we did after all). He responded saying something like “what’s crazy is you had a really good understanding of where I was coming from and what I was feeling.” I mean…
This is all to say that Last Ditch Playlist is like a memorial to my first love. Let’s call him Wes. I didn’t think love was possible until I met Wes. When I grew up, I had no gay role models in my life. I sometimes wonder if that would have been the case even just a few years later. Still, given my circumstances, I never had that first breakup so many people experience in High School. I wouldn’t even meet Wes until after I came back to that same town I grew up in after college. After four whole years of college during which I was out and proud but with no one to tell “I love you,” Wes popped out of nowhere. I really thought I had found the one. I was mad in love and Wes kept me beautifully distracted from my loneliness.
Thankfully, hindsight is equally beautiful. At times lovely and at times tumultuous, my relationship with Wes was one of the most important experiences of my life. It was so very important because, most of all, it had to end. If you still haven’t experienced heartbreak, then I highly recommend it.
Above all, it gave me Last Ditch Playlist. A play that despite being based on a significant chapter in my own life, I never initially set out to act myself. But being so removed from Wes now and yet still so easily able to inhabit those emotions again…it feels right.
I hope you’ll join me for Last Ditch Playlist. I challenge you to experience the play and reflect on the relationships you’ve experienced throughout your life. Although this play may follow a relationship between two men (unique in its own way, of course), it’s important that it draws a nuanced picture of a relationship that is relatable to anybody who has ever been in one. If ‘love is love,’ then that experience should be universally recognizable. So I hope it is with this play.
To quote Carrie Fisher: “take your broken heart, make it into art.”
Brad Baron is a singer, actor, writer, director, and frequent Pirate King. The bulk of his career has been spent performing leading and supporting roles in opera and musical theater productions around the United States. In addition, he has had many plays produced at regional theaters and festivals. The 2017 Capital Fringe production of his play Last Ditch Playlist marks its world premiere. Its NYC and Philly premieres follow soon thereafter. For more information about Brad, please visit www.brad-baron.com or follow him on social media directly @BaronAsInRed.