Vicki Caroline Cheatwood

A Complicated Year

Vicki Caroline Cheatwood reflects on an important year for her, artistically, that was overshadowed by a devastating life event.

published Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The year 2012 and me: It's…complicated. 

This year saw my play Ruth move through an exciting, affirming development process into production at Kitchen Dog Theater, my home. 

It also took away my husband. 

This year brought me into WaterTower Theatre, working as a dramaturg with my sassy sister Landrie Bock and mentor-friend Terry Martin. 

It also took away my husband. 

The year drew a band of fierce friends, old and new, around me like a shield. 

It also took away my husband. 

Soyou see where this is going, right? 

On Ruth. I was there for it, workshops, rehearsals, tech week, performances—but I can't recall much of it. Shock and exhaustion, I guess. Sometimes, it feels like Ruth never happened, like I was sleepwalking and had this great dream. There was no better director to pull/push/guide me through the development-to-production process than Tim Johnson, no better loving friends to make it all happen than Tina Parker and Chris Carlos, and no better actor than Gail Cronauer, grieving her own Mark, to breathe life into my Naomi. The excellent cast, the designers, the entire company...

God, I walk a blessed road.

As a theatergoer, as usual, I missed more shows than I got to see. At Kitchen Dog, I think 2012 was one of our best years. Allison Moore's devastating and beautiful Collapse left my friends and me weeping in our seats for a long time after the house lights came up. The naughty Becky Shaw was so good, I had to see it again. Karen Parrish's taut, poignant, terrifying performance in The Beauty Queen of Leenane left me breathless. (Karen deserves a Tony Award, and by that I mean the American Theatre Wing needs to fly the thing here, hand it to Karen, get back on the plane to New York and tell everybody else to go home.)

Other theatrical highlights from this year: Regan Adair's brilliant, precise comedy in The Mystery of Irma Vep at WaterTower, the non-stop belly laughs all the way through Avenue Q at Theatre Three, Denise Lee's searing rendition of "Mississippi Goddam" in The Sammons Center's new cabaret series, being delighted and surprised by John Venable's performance in Echo Theatre's Or, (and not because of the shirtlessness and skin-tight black leather pants, but hey, no complaints), and being challenged by and contributing to Kitchen Dog's Saturday company classes.

When think about the past year, about what sustains me, I see the altar at Northaven United Methodist, our church. My husband designed it and built it. And I see the black box theater at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, where Mark (and Bryan Wofford) made magic happen and transformed that edgy little theater space into a small-town nursing home back in 1995. That church and that theater, overlap for me. It's not easy to walk back into either of them—all that was taken from me is too real there.

Yet, when grief sits too heavy, I will often visualize myself in those sacred spaces, the temple and the temple, lying down, making physical contact, grounding myself, completing the circuit, and it's there that I reconnect with what survives. 

◊ Vicki Caroline Cheatwood is a playwright and dramaturg. Her play Ruth, presented by Kitchen Dog Theater, was one of the important works by a local playwright this year. Read our feature on her when that play opened, here.

◊ From now through the end of the year, look for essays from actor/dancer/choreographer Jeremy Dumont, Jonathan Fielding of Amphibian Stage Productions, director Michael Serrecchia and others. If you'd like to contribute an essay, email Mark Lowry at So far, the essays in the series are from:

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A Complicated Year
Vicki Caroline Cheatwood reflects on an important year for her, artistically, that was overshadowed by a devastating life event.
by Vicki Cheatwood

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