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David is having a surprise party. His wife Stephanie asks me to be part of the entertainment. "What do you want me to do?" "Anything you want," she says. David has been diagnosed with Leukemia. Though Stephanie and I don't talk much about it, we think "how many more birthdays will he have left?" I want to make David laugh. To let him know how special he is. To honor him. David and I met in acting class so I know there will be lots of actors at the party. Maybe it would be fun to do write some sort of skit. There will certainly be plenty of people willing to perform. So that's what I do, even though I've never written so much as a page of dialogue. I write David a play in pentameter. My play tells the story of his life; his growing up in New York, the mad crazy Aunt, the litany of odd jobs and the wooing and wedding of Stephanie. After it's performed David turns to me and says, "Gee, Staci, you have a real talent for writing. This is what you should be doing!" That was over fifteen years ago. "David's Big Day" was the first play I ever wrote. Since then I have written over 35 plays. Some are full length, some are one acts. In all of them I strive to create characters that audiences will care about, develop situations that make viewers laugh and cry and show how people often make hard choices as they struggle to do what's right in difficult situations. I am passionate about issues, ideas and people. I work to link history, theories, the personal and the political into active dramatic stories that engage and move an audience. In my writing I wrestle with what it means to be human and aim for a dramatic synthesis -- of reason and emotion, form and content, and hearts and minds. I know that art matters because I have seen how it brings people together and provides a common language for human experience. My most recent full length play "Pardon Me For Living" is based on a real life encounter with a rabid raccoon. Although it is a deeply personal story it is also a universal tale about illness, isolation, and how life becomes frightening and prized when the body is imperiled. When Hudson Stage Company produced "Pardon Me" in November 2008 audience members told me how deeply they related my play to their own experiences of health, mortality and illness. How funny they thought the piece was. How much they laughed. Naturally I was pleased to hear this. But David's laugh had a special significance. Fifteen years later, he's still fighting. And I'm still writing.
Ms. Swedeen, winner of the 2004 Arts and Letters Award in Drama, was also the recipient of a 2003 New York State Council for the