Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes
Generously underwritten by Nancy and Bill Grove
An examination of the inmates within a system trying to discover meaning in the face of isolation and doubt in one’s own worth over a 25-year bid. The play explores familial ties, love, race, inmate-correctional officer relations, the passing of time, and the succeeding generation of individuals who deal with the challenges of trying to avoid a life of crime or resigning oneself to becoming a part of the system that swept up previous generations.
Nineteen years passed before the nightmare ended. We got the call that release—and deportation— was imminent. We didn’t have a chance to see him and say goodbye, but to A______, that was for the best. He didn’t want to be seen like this. I don’t remember if it was directed to my mother or myself, but he sounded sad as he wondered aloud what the last nineteen years meant at the end of it all. He was the last one to be released.
As of this writing, I haven’t seen him face to face since before then.
There are better, more stable careers out there, but writing is what I decided for myself. Their reactions surprised me. S____ was proud. W______ thought it was better to be a writer than a cog in some corporate machine. A______ told me to read Márquez and Shakespeare to learn how to write. Both A______ and S____ would ask about the meaning of the stories they had me read. I remember talking about Kafka’s Metamorphosis. I don’t remember with whom. I remember crying from hearing they supported me. Don’t tell them I said that.
I don’t get nervous at readings. The anxiety disappears about an hour before. I find peace. There’s nothing more I can do. What will be, will be. But, the reading at the Lark during Playwrights’ Week was different. Not only because it was the Lark, but because a few rows down from me sat S____, the inspiration behind the Prisoner. The man who encouraged hope when there was no reason for it. It didn’t matter that the industry people or the people who would become my agents were there. All that mattered was S____; I was terrified it wasn’t good enough. I was paralyzed with fear at the idea that he wouldn’t like it. But after the reading, he pulled me into a hug and told me I did a great job and he was proud. I think he cried. I know he’d deny it.
He called a week later: he couldn’t stop thinking about the play. He said it was really good.
We were asked in class to name our heroes. I wanted to tell the truth. I said something banal like policemen. Nobody wants to hear that a child’s heroes are the three men he visited in prison.
When I said I wanted to be a playwright, S____ asked me if I’d write about the phone calls and time spent in visiting rooms. A______ asked if he’d be a character in one of my plays one day. W______ asked when I’d be on Broadway. They were happy to see me get an arts degree. After all, a degree in theatre was better than a warrant for my arrest.
I got asked why I wrote this play. I said it was a tribute, a love letter.
I hadn’t been told that W_____ had been deported until months after. He preferred to move on and not make a big deal about it. He was just gone.
A few months after the reading, S____ told me, as we walked along Times Square at 2:30 am, that he was sorry he wasn’t better family to me. A lump caught in my throat. I said, “You good, man.”
I want you and the world to know: You were more than good. You were the best family, S____. You and A______ and W______. The years of phone calls and visitations, the hug you gave me at the Lark, everything you’ve been to me. That’s worth more than a Pulitzer to me. You three are my heroes. It doesn’t make up for what was lost and the 19 years of nightmares for all of us, but the lessons you three shared with me became this play that people are listening to now. I hope that means something, because it’s everything to me.
This play is dedicated to the three flowers that bloomed in hell. All the time. Forever. Always.
I pray every day that I made you guys proud.
I love you.
|Correctional Officer (C.O.)||Delvin Williams|
|Inmate #1||Alexander Palacios|
|Inmate #2||Paul Michael Garcia|
|Mother / Lawyer||Vilma Silva|
|Little Man (L.M.) / Voice||Cameron Davis|
|Stage directions||Grant Luecke|
Federal Correctional Institution. Low or Medium security. 1991 – 2014.
Franky D. Gonzalez is a playwright and TV writer of Colombian descent living in Dallas, TX, originally from Queens, NY. He holds a BA in Theatre from the University of North Texas and has had productions and readings with several theatre companies and colleges in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex since 2011.
He served proudly as the Dramatists Guild Regional Representative for the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in 2018.
Nationally, his work has appeared or has been developed with The Lark, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Repertorio Español, The Mid-America Theatre Conference, The Midwest Dramatists Conference, A Light in Dark Places, PEN America’s Inaugural Writer’s Resist, and the One-Minute Play Festival with Kitchen Dog Theatre.
Franky has won the MetLife Nuestras Voces Latino Playwriting Award, was selected for a MacDowell Fellowship, and most recently has been staffed for a television show airing on Netflix. He has also been a finalist for the San Diego REP Latinx New Play Festival, The Dennis and Victoria Ross Foundation Playwriting Program, the Playwrights Realm Scratchpad Series, and a semi-finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and runner-up for the Alpine Fellowship.
- Reading, Teatro Vivo, 2019
- Workshop, LAByrinth Theater Company, 2019
- Reading, Repertorio Español, 2018
- Reading, Great Plains Theatre Conference, 2018
- Reading, The Lark, 2018
- Reading, The Aviary, 2017
- Selection, Austin Latino New Play Festival, Teatro Vivo, 2019
- Semi-Finalist, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Playwrights Foundation, 2019
- Finalist, Ashland New Play Festival, 2019
- Selection, Script Competition Second Rounder, Austin Film Festival, 2019
- Semi-Finalist, Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, 2018
- Selection, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Metropolitan Community College, 2018
- Winner, MetLife Nuestras Voces Playwriting Competition, Repertorio Español, 2018
- Finalist, San Diego REP Latinx New Play Festival, San Diego REPertory Theatre, 2018
- Honorable Mention, 87th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, Writers Digest, 2018
- Selection, Playwrights’ Week, The Lark, 2018
- Finalist, Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation Playwrights Program, Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation (DVRF), 2018
- Finalist, Scratchpad Series, The Playwrights Realm, 2018