When I had the idea to produce short plays this summer. I wanted there to be something to unify the four plays that my three fellow playwrights and myself would write. Obviously, I came up with a truck stop ’cause that term is in the title. It’s not just a random or whimsical gimmick though.
When I was 19, I found myself in a truck stop eating Christmas Eve dinner by myself. I won’t get into the why, that’ll be a play or a movie in the future. Let’s just say, 48 hours before, neither my family or I would have guessed I would have been eating turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy by myself at a Flying J outside on I-35 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Christmas Eve dinner was always a big event for my family. We celebrated more on Christmas Eve than Christmas Day. The night consisted of church, opening presents, and dinner. I have an image emblazoned on my brain of my grandfather in a red sweater sitting at our dining room table, eating clam chowder from the only good seafood place in Kansas City. I remember him being happy. I remember all of us being happy.
So, sitting there in my booth, I felt like I was on another planet. I was shocked so many people were eating dinner at a truck stop restaurant with me. I thought it’d be empty. Some were travelers, but many were locals. There had to have been a couple of farmers and their wives. With my upbringing I assumed there would be a sadness amongst everyone having to eat there on the holiday. There wasn’t. I thought my waitress would be melancholy. I don’t remember her being so. I sat staring in awe of everyone.
I had driven a lot on foggy interstate highways the previous 24 hours. Truck stops and gas stations were a refuge. A way to escape from an intense drive for ten minutes. At a time, where I felt I couldn’t connect with anyone on the planet, it was nice to converse with someone for just a few moments at the cash register. I think at two in the morning that the person working the register appreciated having someone to talk to.
Everyone who steps inside a truck stop is on some type of journey. They’re trying to escape, or find, or lose, or love. I think the four plays that make up “10-4: The Truck Stop Plays” examine these kinds of journeys in a dark, humorous way.
We open August 8th at CIC Theater.
-Ryan Patrick Dolan