Arts & Entertainment

Local writer takes performance to stage in NYC

Thomasine "Tammy" Crawford

OLEAN, NY – It’s always a rewarding feeling when hard work pays off. For Thomasine "Tammy" Crawford, dreams became a reality when her play, "Inside Himself," was picked up by the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City.

“I remember logging into my email at work and seeing the word ‘congratulations!’ and froze,” Crawford said. “I read the email and remember looking out of my office to see if someone could look at this with me and tell me if it was real or not.”

Ever since Crawford was a child growing up in Olean, she followed a call for writing. She recalled an early writing experience with a lifelong friend. “When we were kids, we found some continuous computer punch paper and I hand wrote a story about a senator's daughter who was kidnapped,” she said.

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When she was in her 30s, Crawford continued to write short stories, which she sent  to magazines with hopes of being published. No luck. She even began a novel 15 years ago. At first a publisher showed interest. When she completed the novel, however, the publisher was no long accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

Crawford found herself at a standstill. She didn’t write anything for several years until her uncle suffered a stroke in 2008.

She recalled visiting him. “He stood there talking to me, seemed completely healthy, but I couldn't understand a word," she said. "He looked at me as though he was completely sure of what he was saying, but it was entirely nonsensical to me.”

At that moment, Crawford got the idea for “Inside Himself.”

“In my crazy brain, I saw two men coming out on stage with a spotlight on each of them,” Crawford said. “They were the same man, but one just had the stroke and the other was the man who he still thought he was. One spoke gibberish, the other, his clear thought.”

She had not written a play for the stage but was familiar with scripts because of her experience with Olean Community Theatre. She had been in “Mame” and “Sylvia.” She began researching the process of script writing and then wrote a script.

Crawford’s mentor, Mara Mills, assisted in refining the script and helped her incorporate the play into Crawford’s communications curriculum at Jamestown Community College in Olean where Mills taught with Crawford.

A few years later, Mills brought the production to JCC in Olean, arranged readings of the script with actors in the Westchester County area, and sent the play to a variety of theater entities

In December of 2015, the Midtown International Theatre Festival accepted it. A grant from the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation not only assisted with the development of the show but with a follow-up workshop where discussion on aging awareness, family support and stroke education would take place.

 “It's been quite a learning process, dealing with a working director and experienced cast,” Crawford said.  “I remember thinking to myself, this is not community theater anymore.”

Crawford continues to write short stories and scripts. Her “Act Your Age” will be produced by OCT. She is also in the process of reworking her play, “The Bishop’s Committee,” which concerns a group of Catholic women in the 1960s learning of injustices in the Catholic Church.

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Sarah Negron accompanied Crawford on her trip to New York City for the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Read her account of what it was spending time with playwright by clicking here.

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