Gorrman Lee is a writer. He has written for film and television. He has worked on a variety of productions: romance (Since Feeling is First), comedy (Parked), Fantasy (Van Helsing). He’ll tell you that his forte is Science Fiction because of the impact the films of his childhood, movies like Star Wars and Terminator had on him but…you should know that he is being deceptive. This isn’t the product of a duplicitous nature on his part but rather humility. Lee’s greatest strength is heart. The emotional sincerity that emanates from the mouths of his characters is touching and affirming. While he espouses his love for TV, there is no better example of the humanity he infuses into the page than his play “Hold Her Hand.” The story of “Hold Her Hand” was inspired by the loss of Lee’s mother to cancer in 2010. The feelings and thoughts had gestated for a long time before it ultimately became the script for the stage play. Working closely with colleague and director, Briana Brown, Gorrman explored his own grief, and found a means by which to manifest comedy and pathos out of a traditionally dark subject matter. Perhaps the highest calling in life is to take one’s own pain and transform it into something which helps others and brings light rather than darkness to the rest of the world. It’s a form of magic to do this; in this regard, Lee is as much a prestidigitator as writer.
The main character of the play is Bruce. Bruce is a lothario. While on a date, he is confronted by a former conquest. Through a series of flashbacks, Bruce recalls his own parents’ romance and his lack of a similar experience. In the most painful scene, we witness Bruce and his mother discussing that her cancer and its following fatal end will rob them of the experiences that most mothers and sons share. We return to present day as Bruce decides to call the date off, when Elizabeth reveals that she has also recently lost someone. In their shared experience the couple finds an ease that was formerly absent.
What began as a means of catharsis for the writer later became both a way to share with others as well as a technical exercise for himself as an artist. The vast majority of Gorrman’s work has been in television and the approach for writing a live stage play is incredibly different. TV allows for many vehicles with which to deliver the information that a writer wants to communicate, but theater is much more an actor’s medium. The restraint needed to deliver the same emotion and intent without overwriting was considerable. Still, Lee was driven to present the story and all of the varied emotions it contained. He describes, “It must be a natural inclination for some writers to turn their negative experiences into positive ones. I don’t think that artists have any responsibility to channel their own pain into anything for the consumption of others. That can be potentially dangerous for many artists who struggle with a number of mental and emotional health issues. I think I’m a weird kind combination of optimist and cynic to want to explore the light and comedic side of something that would traditionally be dark, somber, and negative. The actual circumstances and timing of my mother’s death (the day before my 28th birthday) just sort of forced me into seeing the light side of what was going on. I spent that birthday in a funeral home, helping my father make funeral arrangements. That’s absurd! Only a cynical optimist could laugh at that beauty and love that’s found in something like that. I just wanted to take that attitude and put it into my story. Find the beauty in the life and death of the departed, and learn from it. In the case of Bruce, he learned something about the beauty of love, and maternal love, and how his inability let go of one was preventing him from finding the other.”
The present day romance experiences of Bruce juxtaposed with the flashbacks he sees of his parents’ romance are harsh when measured against Bruce’s own actions and amorous endeavors. What is so fitting about this is that through the relationship with his mother and the conversations he recalls, Bruce becomes cognizant of the truth that nothing in life is as perfect as we once felt or believed it was. No other part of “Hold Her Hand” is as moving as this. The memories which his mother left him with were planted and through time and experience have blossomed into the gift that tells Bruce it is okay to be imperfect and it is still a life worth living.
Briana Brown directed “Hold Her Hand” and professes, “Myself and everyone involved with the play as well as the audience was impressed by Gorrman’s ease with dialogue, his ability to find moments of comedy in the serious, and his recognizable, truthful characters. The play, though mostly ‘realistic’, contained strong undertones of what I now know to be staples of Gorrman's work: a creative and fluid use of time, and successfully managed elements of magic realism. He is conscious and thoughtful about representation in his work, willingly calling out himself as often as his peers in pursuit of a greater piece of work. I love Gorrman’s writing!”
Everyone involved in the entertainment world is searching for a way to bring their best while entertaining those of us lucky to witness it. Lee’s work is eclectic and produces something that appeals to virtually every taste. In the instance of “Hold Her Hand”, Gorrman Lee was able to create a story for himself just as much as for others and triumphed in doing so.