Because They Have No Words–Chicago

Yesterday I flew down to Chicago to see Tim Maddock’s play, “Because They Have No Words” at the Piven Theatre in Evanston. Tim volunteered caring for rescued animals at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I was at L-D before Rita, but came into contact with Tim months later when he was trying to track down a dog and return her to her original family. Tim and I have corresponded off and on via e-mail and spoken on the phone a number of times, but this is the first time we met in person.

It took me a while to get my rental car at the airport and drive to the suburbs to find my hotel and the theater. I got stuck in road construction on the interstate and arrived later than planned. I had organized a group of people to meet at the Noyes Street Cafe’ across the street from the theater. When I arrived at the café, they were already seated. I had not met most of these people, but had corresponded with many of them by e-mail.

Trudy, from the Madison, Wisconsin area had helped transport my dog Chase to me in May of 2006. She also drove down to Louisiana in November 2006 and brought a van-load of animals back north to rescue organizations. She brought two cattle dogs, Levi (from Texas) and Pirate (from Roicy in Lafayette, Louisiana) on that trip. Trudy’s friend Mary Ann joined us for the play.

Dom, who I knew online through cattle dog rescue and the AuCaDo Forum, brought her husband and step-daughter from Indiana.

Gail, who had been at the Noah’s Wish training that I attended in Wisconsin in May 2006, brought her friend Jennifer. Both are from the Chicago area. I recognized them both from the 2006 training, but don’t know them well. Gail is very active in Noah’s Wish. Gail invited along her friend Cheryl and her daughter. On Friday, Gail had picked up the cattle dog Daphne who we rescued from death row in Ohio last week and took her to the boarding kennel in the Chicago area until she could catch a ride to Minnesota today.

Jane, from Minnesota, brought along her sister. Jane had also been at the 2006 Noah’s Wish training. They’re picking up Daphne today and driving her all the way to Homeward Bound Rescue in Minnesota.

Wow, it was great to meet all of these people and talk with them over dinner. Tim Maddock, the playwright and star of the show, stopped by during dinner and said hello to the group. I thought that was very kind of him and was so glad to finally meet him in person after corresponding with him for over two years. I pulled out my camera and we took photos.

The Piven is a small, intimate community theater. It had a few rows of seats in a “V” shape, or maybe more of an “L” shape. The set had a pile of hurricane debris, framing for part of a house, and spray-painted signs on the walls, like the Xs that were painted on houses that had been searched in NOLA. The whole room was done this way, so we felt like we were part of it. The set was very authentic—I just returned to NOLA for the first time last month and some of it still looks that way. The set designer did a fantastic job! I wanted to take pictures, but was not allowed.

The play opened with Mardi gras revelers parading across the stage, then told of Tim’s first thoughts of going to the Gulf Coast to help the animals. His mother had passed away the year before and things hadn’t been quite right for him since. He wanted to go help and was compelled to do something meaningful in memory of his mother. Tim ended up traveling to Lamar-Dixon by himself, as I had, and I related to many parts of his story.

Tim told of the rigid nature of the L-D “authorities”. I could relate to his expectation to be welcomed with open arms and his great disappointment at being told they didn’t need volunteers the night he arrived. I love Tim’s use of humor throughout the play. It helped me to remember and deal with some of the difficult memories and emotions that surfaced for me throughout the performance.

On Tim’s first full day of rescuing animals, he was recruited to drive into NOLA with a partner to rescue animals. He did this for a few days before staying at Lamar-Dixon to help care for the animals and reunite people with their pets. His portrayal of some of the animal rescue nuts that he encountered along the way rang true with me. His partner that first day was a bit wacky and made him understand right away why she didn’t have another partner. Also, she was a “cat” person who didn’t care much for dogs, and he was a dog person who thought that cats and dogs should be rescued equally. Later he found another partner who he eventually bonded well and shared life stories with.

Tim told of going to addresses that they had been given, where people had requested rescue for their animals, or previous searchers had indicated that animals were in the houses. In one case, the house addresses were out of order. Tim found that a house had been moved off of its foundation and had pushed another house out of the way. Unbelievable! He told of the overwhelming muck and stench that they found in Chalmette, part of St. Bernard Parish. They found houses with a water line four inches below the first floor ceiling. Since many of these houses only had one story, the animals that were locked inside didn’t stand much chance. Many of the searches inside houses were futile, but Tim and his partner were able to rescue some loose animals, including a wolf hybrid that Tim later visited at a sanctuary in North Carolina. They were also present while a rescued animal took his final breath.

Different threads were woven throughout the play, including Tim’s recollection of how he had first discovered his sexuality—his gayness– in NOLA on a spring break trip with fraternity brothers many years ago. He also told of his search, long after he had arrived home, for a dog that had been “misplaced” by L-D volunteers that he wanted to return to her original family. This search is how I had first met Tim online in 2006. I was one of the L-D volunteers that he had contacted. I was glad to finally learn the outcome, which is told in the play.

The versatility of the actors and the use of music and sound effects throughout the play were awesome. The actors’ abilities to change roles frequently, portraying a dog, a rescue volunteer, or an evacuee searching for a lost pet was done very well, without confusion. They kept the different gender, character, and species roles sorted out perfectly. They also had amazing voices. I enjoyed the music immensely.

Tim’s development of the characters and his genuine exasperation with different parts of the experience brought back memories for me. The play made me laugh, and then made me cry. It moved me all the way through. I had anticipated that parts would be very difficult. What I loved was Tim’s ability to bring to light the humorous parts of the experience too, and to keep the story moving.

Tim’s portrayal of the aftermath of the experience, of going home and still having to deal with all the loose threads, hit home with me too. In real life, things do not always come out perfectly, and that was Tim’s experience as well as mine. Being around people who didn’t understand what we had been through was often very difficult. Trying to make everything all right doesn’t always work. Yet by doing something, rather than nothing, Tim took a path that he couldn’t have predicted. The journey led him to new places and compelled him to tell the story (as my journey compelled me to write Kate’s book). This production is a must-see for those of us who shared the experience and comes as close as possible (I think) to communicating what it was like to those who weren’t there. I’m grateful to Tim for sharing details of his life and his animal rescue experience in Louisiana. This play has something for everyone. Our group traveled from Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The play was well worth the trip.

Note: Tim indicated to me that the play wasn’t written for children. The play includes profanity and difficult life and death issues throughout. Although there was an 8 year old in our audience, I recommend this play for adults and maybe teenagers only.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.