Actor and playwright Danna Schaeffer is a small, perky woman whose energy seems to want to burst out of her in laughter and excitement. She has another side as well. Schaeffer and her husband Benson are members of The Grief Club. In 1989, their only child Rebecca, an up-and-coming Hollywood actress was murdered on her front doorstep, shot by a stalker when she answered her door.
Schaeffer was 45 when her daughter was murdered. Now, 28 years later, she is able to tell Rebecca’s story. In her play You In Midair, Schaeffer recreates her life with and without Rebecca–the closeness, their special times together, the delighted phone calls, that trip to Rome where Rebecca was working. And then, just as it was there, it wasn’t. Midair.
The play is a distillation of 28 years–and the 21 years before it. In her work, Danna Schaeffer captures the essence of her special daughter, her family’s grief, and her own very personal grief–through the onslaught of food, flowers, and funeral, murder trial, and the well-meaning but stupid things people say when a child dies. And yet life goes on. It somehow always does. The play accurately depicts the mystery of how that happens too. The memories of a child lost too young are very clear–and they never, ever go away.
Danna Schaeffer, a longtime Portland resident, has written plays, stories, articles, novels, reviews, and a memoir. She taught writing and playwriting, and pursued a career in mental health. You in Midair premiered in January 2017 at Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival. It is directed by Julie Akers.
The play runs Thursday through Saturday, with Sunday matinees, through October 15 at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont, Portland.
Photo of Danna Schaeffer by Owen Carey.