“On the corner, in the parks, asleep on the sidewalks, walking the beaches, they talk to themselves. They say things to passersby. We give them a label. When they are together, they learn that the thoughts they have carried all these years dovetail into something that will change the city and possibly the world.”
I’m at a local coffee shop with a friend working on a project. We wrap up and head out. I’m unlocking my car door when I hear a woman across the street yell the word “Watermelon.” I turn to look at her. The woman looks directly at me again and yells “Watermelon.” Then clickety-clack proceeds up the street with her shopping cart full of things. I’m stunned and my friend looks at me in disbelief. It’s not important for the purposes of this article why watermelon is significant, but it is. A lifesaving message I needed to hear at that point in my life. I see her again a year later and run down the street to catch up with her.
‘Miss? Miss!” I shout.
“My name is Jay. Jay,” she says, correcting me.
Then she shuffles away. Jay becomes the seed for All the Angels Come. Just don’t ever call her “Miss.”
I hit the keyboard for a couple months but didn’t like the results. Trying too hard to write some great work of fiction, when all the while I was simply feeling grateful. I thought about how much value she brought to my life. That we all have value, no matter what our experience. I restarted Angels with that in mind. I serendipitously met other people, some whose homes are different from mine. Those whose walls are not drywall, but the side of a bridge, the curve of a dune, or the ledge of a building. A variety of colors, shapes, and flavors that make this community rich, diverse and full of life and emotion. I built the characters around their personas. They came like a gift, and as I wrote, I fell in love with them. Willis, Masuyo, Jay and Ricardo.
Anxious to get the work out with so much to say, I thought it would fun to write it as a serial novel. Serial novels are making a comeback these days. Not to be confused with an episodic series, they are more like a continuous novel with one primary arc. Like Stephen King’s The Green Mile or Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Christo, which was published in the Journal des Débats (of debates) in eighteen parts from 1844 to 1846. Interestingly enough, the work was not written in its entirety then spoon-fed to the readers. For example, when King published The Green Mile and released book one of six, the remaining books were not conceived yet. Trusting that the words will come. Maybe from an angel.
All the Angels Come’s mission speaks to the curse of stereotyping, the value of the individual and the blessings of diversity. The cast of characters are all but typical, yet carry values that are universal. In the spirit of anthropologist Adolf Bastian’s psychic unity, the angels are better when they are together, a metaphor for all of us. In that spirit, All the Angels Come is a community collaboration of visual and performing artists and organizations that support the mission.
With a script developed from the novel, All the Angels Come will be performed onstage at Players by the Sea, August 26 and 27th, and at Unity Plaza on November 5th. The performance is produced by Joe Schwarz and directed by Barbara Colaciello.
The Bold City Contemporary Ensemble is scoring the piece. The ensemble includes symphony musicians from Jacksonville and Tallahassee including Piotr Szewczyk on violin, Sarah Jane Young on flute, Anthony Anurca on bassoon, Joe Montelione on trumpet, and Bojana Kragulj, electronica, clarinet, and producer.
Artist MWill aka Marcus Williams is rendering the characters in his unique style (pictured here). Marcus’ work is being released serially like the novel.
We are grateful to partner with Changing Homelessness. Their work, research, and data on homelessness are invaluable in helping us handle this issue with the class and dignity it deserves. The first thing I learned was that the people I’m writing about are not called “homeless people.” They are people experiencing homelessness. One might think, ho-hum, another PC thing to remember. Yet it’s true, because reader, no one is calling you a homed person. We all have a name and have value. Taking the time to learn the facts dispels the myths and changes our view and, frankly, our stereotype of people experiencing homelessness in our community.
All the Angels Come is a collaborative work of fiction in a big screen age where millionaires Tony Starks and Bruce Wayne don their costumes, leave their mansions and save the world. There are those among us who have neither. They can be heroes too. The story begins with Willis, Masuyo, Jay and Ricardo. You may have met them before; a familiar face in a familiar place. Get to know them, as a certain river city discovers its inherent magic when all the angels come.
By Jim Alabiso