Based on a true story, GOODBYE is the newest award-winning play from Orlando playwright John Mark Jernigan about being in the right place at the wrong time…or is it the wrong place at the right time? Directed by Chris Crawford with live underscoring by Anthony R. Smith, GOODBYE (scuba)dives through time to explore the transcendent beauty in joy and loss as “an affecting exhortation to inhale all the opportunities life offers” (Orlando Weekly). GOODBYE features the ensemble cast of T. Robert Pigott, Hesther Leonardi, Brian Brammer, Sonia Roman, John Mark Jernigan and Jeffrey Correia who, together, bring to life a story that asks you “how would you spend each breath if you knew exactly how much time you had left?” GOODBYE plays Dec 19th-28th as a part of Soho Playhouse’s Fringe Encore Series. For tickets and more info, please visit: https://fringeencoreseries.com/goodbye
Can you talk about how/when/why GOODBYE was created? Tell me about the diver? Is there water in the show?
John Mark Jernigan: Haha! No there is no actual water in the show. However, there is wine? During the closing night festivities of the Orlando Fringe in 2018, Robby Pigott (the diver) approached me (John Mark Jernigan) and, as the kids would say, lovingly, “word vommited” his story to me. Specifically the story of his own father’s passing. He went on and on about how, at the time, he was on the absolute best scuba diving trip of his life. He had won a one of a kind, all expenses paid, trip to Thailand to dive in some of the most beautiful locations in the world. A journey he never would have been able to afford on his own had he not won the opportunity. Through tears and laughter (thanks in part to the overflowing of Fringe festival libations) Robby explained to me that during the same time his father, who had been sick for a while, rapidly decreased in health and, as it would turn out, passed away while Robby was in Thailand. He went on to say he had NO IDEA why he was telling me this narrative, he just felt like I needed to hear it and boy did I! Almost instantly I was overcome with how special his story is. I said “Robby, isn’t it incredible that you get to remember the passing of your father with such joy filled memories?” Rather than waiting in the stark, sterile hospital rooms awaiting the inevitable, powerless to do anything, creating memories of such empty sadness, like so many of us all have done…when Robby remembers his father leaving this earth he is also overwhelmed with memories of the beauty this earth has to offer anyone who just takes the time to “breathe it all in”. Goodbye is loosely based on this story…a lot of liberties were taken to create more to his tale than Robby ever shared and in the end we are left with a play that simply asks us to see the good in the bad. To get off our own backs. To quit worrying what everyone else thinks about how we choose to live and to just BREATHE.
Are there discoveries you’ve made in working on Goodbye?
John Mark Jernigan: So many. I often times find that I write through rose tinted glasses. I see in other people these beautiful stories and once they’re fleshed out on to paper I have a real surreal moment of “that came out of me?”. Me? Whom I consider, strongly, to be quite the pessimistic perfectionist. Always worried. Always a little bit grumpy. So, In the case of GOODBYE, I have written a parable of sorts about giving up the idea of perfection. Leaving behind expectations and just BREATHING. Which, if you spend about three hours with me, you’ll realize just how badly I need to listen to my own words. Time and Time again, the universe has offered me, all of us, the opportunity to look around and see that things are exactly how they’re meant to be. If only we’d stop and take a moment to appreciate it.
That and just how little I know about the, magnificent, terrifying theatrical workings of NYC.
What’s it like making theater in Florida?
John Mark Jernigan: Oh man. How much time do we have here? I feel like there should be a Rosetta Stone education to understand each and every one of the insanely different languages the varying theatrical communities speak. From NYC, Atlanta, Chicago and now Orlando they’re so vastly different and so profoundly similar all at once. I think the key for me, so far, has been to focus less on telling MY story or making MY voice heard and instead spend more energy trying to amplify the voices of everyone else around us. Through this, in Florida or anywhere else we take our little skits, I think we can truly bridge the gaps and make it less about being successful where we are and more about being a part of a bigger, universal, picture. I found traces of that sentiment in every city I’ve lived in, but I think Orlando, through all its been through, has taught me (this) the most.
Tell me a story about you as a kid?
John Mark Jernigan: I was homeschooled. But don’t worry. I was a COOL homeschooler. (If you can picture the writer currently practicing his ‘awkward wink’ at his own laptop screen as he wrote that, then I think you’ll get along just fine)
There’s a play in there, I’m sure of it.
Inspirations? Favorite plays?
John Mark Jernigan: Oof. First and foremost, my biggest inspiration to date has to be my partner, Chris Crawford. Because of his absolutely brilliant storytelling power on stage as an actor and off as a truly visionary director, I was inspired to write again after YEARS of barely writing in my own journal, much less full length plays.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s idea of Big Magic is real. And I believe in it like others believe we won’t gain weight from only eating fast food. Passionately. Wrecklessly. With a extra ketchup on those fries please.
And Matthew Lopez’ “The Inheritance” takes the crown for what has to have been the most life affirming experience I’ve ever had in my gay, homeschooled, Lord of the Rings and Nintendo loving life. If you haven’t seen it, don’t waste your life. GO.
All that and who didn’t openly WEEP the first time that elephant walked down the aisle during the opening of The Lion King on Broadway?
Why make theater?
John Mark Jernigan: This question can be answered differently every other hour you ask me. But right here and now I’ll say: Because it asks. It doesn’t tell. If it’s done well. It asks us to take the time to see, hear or WITNESS something we haven’t before. I believe our universe is infinite, full of infinite possibilities and stories, which just means there will NEVER come a day when I can’t see just a little bit more. And the theatre is the presents us with a literal STAGE to tell all the infinities the universe has to offer.
If there were no obstacles, what’s the impossible thing you’d make?
John Mark Jernigan: Get ready for some sappy shit? I would create a mirror, for anyone who dares look into it, that reveals everything your capable of becoming. A mirror that gives us permission. Permission to be what we believe, for whatever reason, we aren’t allowed to be. The version of ourselves we all have the ability to put forth yet fear we are incapable of becoming. The version of ourselves that feels strong enough to take care of each other.