Shotgun Down The Avalanche

by Susan Hayden • Member { View Profile }

     "Riding Shotgun Down The Avalanche" by Shawn Colvin was our song when we first fell in love 20 years ago. My then boyfriend, Christopher Allport, was a musician in his soul but an actor of the stage and screen by trade. I was a spoken-word artist and a fledgling playwright about to be produced for the first time by a well-respected theatre in Los Angeles. We bonded through our love of words and music, later married and had a beautiful son. Ours was a story of love letters, poems, and songs. I went on to write a novel, several more plays, and poems. He thrived as a working actor, regularly appearing in episodes of hit TV shows and performing in theatre all over Los Angeles.
     But we were opposites in many ways, most of which included my lack of interest in sports and his passion and need to be outdoors, engaging in anything and everything that challenged him physically. Chris was a mountaineer, an extreme athlete, a risk-taker who climbed rocks and ice. Telemark skiing, kayaking, paddle tennis, and wave-skiing were all at the top of his endless list. 
     I encouraged him to write a one-man show that at once conveyed his musical, acting, and writing abilities. I would later produce "The Backroad Home" at our second home, The Ruskin Theatre in Santa Monica, a place where I sometimes wrote in an event called L.A. Cafe Plays.
     Chris’ piece was only a portion of his circuitous route from dodging the draft in the shadow of his father, a war hero with a purple heart. It was a hit. Within months after the show premiered, Chris was cast in a recurring role as the lead character’s father in a then-unknown show called Madmen. On a brief lull from work. he went out for an ordinary day of skiing in our local mountains, never to return. He was killed, by an avalanche. It was unimaginable, the odds being one in ten million. It was as if a crane fell on our heads and our family and sense of safety and well-being, and our lives as we once recognized them were flattened. And this torch, this mascot, my best friend, my son’s father, was lost to us, for keeps.
     At a loss for words, literally. I longed for a way to re-connect with other writers at the same theatre that had always made me feel safe and nurtured in an ongoing fashion when I was there with Chris. So I took a leap and created a literary series, Library Girl, from scratch. I called some of my writer friends from when I started out, made an arrangement with the Ruskin, and was given a regular slot, the second Sunday of every month, to produce a show that honored literary talent by presenting writers reading from their work. We have presented three thus far and have a brilliant line-up for the year. We have a following, a Facebook group, writers asking to read. We have curiosity and excitement and possibility. And we have words, words that make me feel alive and hopeful, that have kept me going during the worst of times.

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