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"Freedom" is Scripted Off the Page

Recovery-inspired multi-media play brings joy and discovery into focus

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Bend area playwrights Kim O’Kelley-Leigh and Ann Boyd bring their shared experience and mutual passion to “Freedom Off the Page,” a new play showing one night only at the Tower Theatre Friday, to benefit Stroke Awareness Oregon.

“It’s a collage, a tapestry,” O’Kelley-Leigh says of the one-act play. “It’s about life, friendships and opportunities.” It does chronicle O’Kelley-Leigh’s journey through stroke recovery but more than that, it’s about finding purpose in life and developing meaningful relationships. The two playwrights perform the show using dramatization, story-telling, music and dance. The title derives from something O’Kelley-Leigh once said during a piano lesson about playing by ear: “When you’re not looking at the notes, you have freedom off the page,” she says. “And it’s a metaphor for life, just being free and going after what’s in front of you.”
Playwright Ann Boyd as herself in "Freedom Off the Page. Background: co-playwright Kim O'Kelley-Leigh. - MICHELLE MEJASKI
  • Michelle Mejaski
  • Playwright Ann Boyd as herself in "Freedom Off the Page. Background: co-playwright Kim O'Kelley-Leigh.

O’Kelley-Leigh came to Bend from Los Angeles, Boyd from Chicago. “We both lost both our parents. We both wanted to find a way to spend more time with our kids” – and all of these things independently, O’Kelley-Leigh says. She met Lawnae Hunter at St. Charles Bend when Hunter approached her about starting a stroke group. “We started the group because we wanted to give back to the stroke community,” she says. That group became what is today Stroke Awareness Oregon.

The process of developing the play mirrored the way the two women’s lives had interwoven. “I wrote my part, she wrote her part, and we wrote the piano lessons – the backbone of the play – together,” O’Kelley-Leigh says.

The story of “Freedom” is a blending of perspectives, Boyd explains. “We were writing about three worlds – the world of the piano lesson in real time, the world of our pasts, and what we call the theatrical world, whether that’s an inner monologue, a story, or conversation with the astral.” Themes developed through the play include parent and child dynamics, building friendships, and viewing daily interactions as opportunities. A metronome may cue a transition to the past, a light change may indicate a reflective passage – and the piano anchors the story line, as an object of creative expression.

“It’s about choices,” O’Kelley-Leigh says. “What do you do when you meet somebody, what are you cultivating?” While stroke was a pivotal point in O’Kelley-Leigh’s life, the play celebrates the positive paths that were brought to light. “We wanted to make something that feels uplifting,” Boyd says.

Director Michelle Mejaski says the play presented her with a unique challenge. “This is not a typical production where we start with a vision, then hold auditions and cast the roles. It’s the opposite: the cast (being the playwrights) had the vision already. My job has been to honor that.”

“Life is what you make it,” says O’Kelley-Leigh. “I think that’s what this piece is about.”


Editor's note: This web version has been updated from the print edition, at the playwrights' request, to update details regarding their backgrounds.

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