Bar News - November 22, 2002
NH Attorney's Essay Adapted to the Stage
By: Dan Wise
LAURENCE J. GILLIS, a Rye attorney, has been writing on the side for many years. Several years ago, an essay he wrote about a brief experience he had working as a telephone customer service representative for an insurance company’s national headquarters in Boston was published in the NY Times Magazine’s "Lives" section.
Gillis thought that being published in one of the nation’s most respected magazines was the height of accomplishment for an occasional writer, but a few months ago, even that experience was topped when the New York City-based Epiphany Theater contacted him to ask if they could include his essay, "The Fiber-Optic Confessional," in a production to be staged at the Chelsea Theater in December.
"I was staggered," Gillis told writer Larissa Mulkern (a former Bar News managing editor) in an article for the Portsmouth Herald. "It was like walking into a store, buying a lottery ticket and walking out a millionaire."
Gillis’ article, which was published March 14, 1999, is one of seven "Lives" essays from the Sunday NY Times Magazine that have been adapted in a production titled "Unreal City" that will run Dec. 6-21 at the Chelsea Playhouse, 125 West 22nd Street. The production will be the theater company’s second adaptation of articles from the magazine’s "Lives" essays.
An excerpt of Gillis’ essay appears below.
A press release from the Epiphany Theater describes "Unreal City" as "one seamless tale" based on the "autobiographical pieces [that] include such diverse characters as a woman who helps her friend commit suicide, a skier whose real-life rescue is re- enacted on television, high school girls, a customer service representative, an insomniac, and a blind woman who regains her sight. From the hilarious to the poignant, ‘Unreal City’ encompasses the breadth of the human experience of love and loss, isolation and community."
Gillis, without being critical, said the play’s authors, Daniella Topol and Brigitte Viellieu-Davis, have informed him that in their stage adaptation, his character will be played by a woman. That exercise of dramatic license doesn’t bother him. "As far as I am concerned, they could re-cast me as a Martian if they want to, as long as my writing gets onto the stage in New York City, which is the center of the known universe," said Gillis.
For more information on "Unreal City," visit www.epiphanytheater.org. For tickets, visit www.smarttix.com or call the box office at (212) 206-1515.
Gillis said he is now working on a full-length autobiography and supplements his current work as a staff attorney for the NH Division for Children, Youth and Families, with teaching law or law-related courses at local colleges and universities.