Prizm News / October 1, 2018 / By Erin McCalla
A one-man show taking the stage this month in Columbus takes the author back to his hometown in Western Ohio.
By Erin McCalla
Growing up, no matter where you’re from, is about discovery your identity and figuring out your next steps.
“Dear Piqua,” a one-man show of songs and monologues written by Drew Eberly, follows the arc of growing up in the small Western Ohio town and the decision to move to the big city.
For Eberly, the “big city” was Columbus, and in his play, he explores what is gained and what is lost in such a move.
“The ‘what is lost’ part is interesting, because when you’re 20, you don’t think too much of what might be lost. You’re ready to go; you’re ready to break out,” he says. “It’s ‘I need something more. I need something bigger.’ I think now, where I’m at, I can look back and think, ‘Yeah that was the decision I made and it was a good one.’ But there are some things that when you get a little bit older, you go, ‘Oh, it was really great that I had that or that it was really nice that my community felt like this.’”
Example: the sense of community a small town brings. Piqua is a city of about 20,000 that’s about 30 minutes north of Dayton on I-75.
“I see in Columbus that people are always trying to create smaller communities,” Eberly says. “People are trying to make the city smaller, which is funny because a lot of us left small cities or towns.”
Sometimes you end up searching for the thing that you were running from. And sometimes the place you’re running to is different than you thought it would be. It turns out
“Oh, I remember thinking that high school was going to look a certain way, but then by the time I got there, that really wasn’t who I was anymore,” Eberly says. “The same thing happened when I thought about what moving to Columbus was going to be like. And then I got there, and it was different.
While the stories in the monologues are specific and autobiographical—like Piqua High School football games, where generations of families attend, and everyone knows each other in the stands—the songs Eberly wrote for “Dear Piqua” are not.
“The songs are a little bit more universal, a little bit more hitting on a theme that we all can relate to.”
Because of the autobiographical nature of the play, a lot of it is about coming out and finding identity.
“For so many kids, Columbus is the place if you are a gay kid. I recognized it early on as a place that I could be, and I think it was important for me to still live in Ohio, but finding that ‘Columbus.’”
The play, which runs from Thursday, Oct. 11 through Saturday, Oct. 20, is produced by Available Light Theatre, where Eberly has been a company member for eight years. He has directed and acted for the theater company, but this his first written piece to go to full production.
“I thought this could marry the singer-songwriter in me and the theater,” he says. “I didn’t have much more than that when I presented it to the company. When I think of Available Light, the answer is yes if you’re thoughtful and passionate. It’s allowed me to take chances.”
Inspired by songwriters Bruce Springsteen and Ani DiFranco, and filmmaker Noah Baumach’s movies “Kicking and Screaming” and “Frances Ha,” Eberly has tried to craft relatable stories and songs.
“I’ve learned that if you treat your own stories with care and you remember to have fun, that your stories can be meaningful for other people.”
A lot of the play is the fumbles of life and finding the humor in it, but because of the current times, the story also gets political and shines a light on different perspectives from the 2016 presidential election.
“One of the lower moments of the play is when I talk about the election and think we are all in this mindset, but if you travel to Piqua you will… I don’t know if you will understand, but you can try to understand how they got to this conclusion. But you look at that conclusion and think, ‘What?!” Eberly says.
“The character is angry about it. It makes a nice kind of point. These are different worlds. It takes about an hour to get to Piqua, but in that time, politically speaking, we are in a different world.”
Erin McCalla is a freelance writer from Columbus.
FIND OUT MORE
There are seven performances of “Dear Piqua” scheduled between Thursday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 20 at Columbus Dance Theatre, 549 E. Main St., Columbus, 43215. It’s produced by Available Light Theatre (avltheatre.com).
Tickets are $20, but the theater company also has a “Pay What You Want” program that’s just what it sounds like.