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IF I HAD MY WAY

The illogical logic of relationships and the threats of bigotry in wartime in a small citrus town in 1940s Florida.

Florida, 1945. A young woman, Margaret Perry, educated in the North, reluctantly returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing mother. Finding herself in the same ranch kitchen where her mother and grandmother toiled all their lives, she resents every aspect of her situation, rejecting friendship and suitors, until her abrasive and bitter attitude is broken by a person she considered invisible: the Italian POW, Piero Alloca, brought to the ranch as replacement help.

MARGARET: Figures … the government gives you to us, and all the while you’re spying. Nobody asked you to come to America.
PIERO: I remember distintamente a very big man pointing a very big gun in my face, asking me to come to America. And nobody give me to you, Signorina. Dottore Jamison does not own me, Signorina, American Army does not own me, Signorina. I give myself. They say you need Piero in this kitchen, Piero is in this kitchen. I am … you say, volontario?
MARGARET: I … I heard Mr. Jamison say … I’m sorry. But you are still a prisoner.
PIERO: Si, they put me in a prison. But I am not the criminale.
MARGARET: Not a criminal. But still a prisoner. It’s hard for me to tell the difference.
PIERO: Then you are very lucky to have never been either one.

A combined cattle operation and citrus grove in an unnamed Central Florida town (based on Kissimmee), the ranch is owned by Nathaniel and Alicia Jamison. At the time, Central Florida is the country's great seat of citrus and cattle ranching, long before the Texas longhorn exodus and theme parks took over the local tourism industry. America is still in the grips of the War, not knowing Germany will surrender within months. Most able-bodied men have been called up for duty, and help is hard to find on the ranch. The Kissimmee airport was built by Italian prisoners of war as a camp, and the residents, captured in Africa and sent to Florida, are consigned to local ranches to do picking duties in the orchards.

Eventually breaking down her resistance, Piero uses lessons learned in his own mother's kitchen to remind Margaret of the beauty of food, and teaches her to value things within her grasp. Meanwhile, the owner's son, Ty, involves himself in the uglier side of Florida life, full of hatred and the raging and violent influence of the then rampant Klan.

And then the citrus groves bloom, and during one magical, perfume-filled night, every relationship in the house changes.

Based on local history and influenced by the Blues (including, in it’s ideal form, a blues singer/performer onstage), If I Had My Way looks at relationships formed by the rational and irrational tides of war, the deep-seated racial tension of the Old South, the loneliness of young souls isolated by culture and time, and hope following darkness like a dream amid the scent of orange blossoms.

THE December 5 CAST

  • Jade Jones
    Actor, singer and emcee Jade Jones has performed at Studio Tierra Del Sol, Garden Theatre, Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center and the Athens Theater in Deland. She created the successful Kickstart Mondays series at The Dreams Lounge.

    Jade plays:

    MARGARET PERRY — Originally from Florida, she headed north as soon as she could, getting an education and a new life in Atlanta and New York. Her mother has worked in the ranch kitchen all her life, and upon the news that she was gravely ill, Margaret returns to take care of her and finds herself working in the same kitchen from which she thought she’d escaped.
  • Stephen Lima
    Stephen Lima has graced the stages of Orlando Shakespeare, the Savannah Center, the Orlando Fringe Festival and the Garden Theatre.

    Stephen plays:

    PIERO ALLOCA — an Italian prisoner of war, being held at the POW camp that today is an airport in Kissimmee FL. A "model prisoner", he is trusted enough to be assigned to cleaning duties inside the house. He wears blue denim pants and jacket, the letters PW on his back.
  • ?

    plays:

    BERNICE “BENNIE” BELL — a young woman, working in the kitchen. She has no plans for her future, except to enjoy life, take no crap, and somehow escape her abusive father.
  • Durell Brown
    Durell Brown has most recently portrayed Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and Felix in The Games Afoot, and spent a productive summer in Goodbye, Liam at Minnessota Fringe.

    Durell plays:

    BOUDREAUX “BO” DOUCETTE — ranch foreman. A Black man in a position of power, originally from New Orleans, trusted by the Jamisons. He wears a glove on his left hand, covering an injury that has kept him out of the Army.
  • Jac LeDoux
    A vital part of Orlando's theater scene, Jac LeDoux appeared in Joseph Reed Hayes' play "A Slow Ride" in 2013. She has acted with every major local theater company, along with directing and sparking creativity in others. 

    Jac plays:

    MRS. ALICIA JAMISON — nee MacCorrie. It is her family that has owned the ranch for generations. She is an impressive, flighty and very self-assured woman, never quite settling in one place for long.
  • David Lowe
    Known for his powerful portayals, David Lowe has played Henry Higgins, Sweeney Todd, Don Quixote and Henry II. And now, Nathaniel Jamison.

    David plays:

    NATHANIEL JAMISON — ranch owner. A surprisingly enlightened man for the times, he treats his ranch hands with respect, often out in the fields himself. He loves his cattle, not-so secretly hates the groves.

  • Cole NeSmith
    Cole NeSmith was the inspiration for his role as Bobby Ace in Joseph Reed Hayes' wildly successful play, "Tom Waits For No Man" in 2015. He is the Executive Director of the Creative City Project, co-founder of The Memoir Agency, and creator of IMMERSE performing and interactive arts event. 

    Cole plays:

    TY JAMISON — Their son. Wild, uncontrollable, spoiled. A victim of the 1925 polio epidemic, he is weak on one side and limps badly. Being seduced into a Klan-like group by his friends, he resents not being in control of the ranch and takes it out on everybody.

freelance writer

As a writer on assignment, I've traveled to Italy, Scotland, England, New Orleans, California and New York City, with a specialty on all things Orlando. Whether it's a story about Arts & Crafts houses in Florida or new styles in computers, a Mounted Police squad or alien abduction insurance, I've written it. Environmental issues, music, movie and theater reviews and in-depth conversations with legends in jazz. Interviews and personality profiles are my specialty.

playwright

My plays take place on buses and in bars, in hotel rooms and government offices, farmhouse kitchens and jazz stages. 49 productions and readings of my plays from coast to coast and in three countries since 2001; creator of House Theater Project and the year-long 13in13 series of shows. "Best local playwright: Joseph Hayes" - Orlando Sentinel

food writer

Florida Magazine Association Award winning food writer and Orlando restaurant critic, currently for Orlando Magazine. James Beard Foundation judge, knowledgable champion of world cuisine and avid advocate of undiscovered chefs. I can write about the front of the house of a restaurant as well as the kitchen with equal expertise. Founding member, goFLA/SunshinePlate Central Florida.

jazz producer

Producer of the Jazz On Edge series, spotlighting new and original jazz from Central Florida since 2008, showcasing the best that Central Florida has to offer in jazz to appreciative audiences, giving creative hometown and nationally-known musicians a place to perform their own music, without boundaries, in person and online. Founder Word Play series, former Chair of Alternative Programming, Timucua Arts Foundation.