A University of Maryland theatre major worked through the loss of three of his friends in the only way he knew how: onstage.
Brendan O’Connell lost three of his friends in a drunk-driving accident in the summer of 2011. One had been his best friend for 15 years, next-door neighbors who grew up together.
His grief was compounded by the knowledge that he’d begged off riding with them that night. When he returned to college, he was, in his own words “bottled up” – in more than one way. His guilt prevented him from sharing his grief as did the realization that he, too, had driven drunk at times. He self-medicated with alcohol to deal with it – or not deal with it.
It took time, a long time, to forgive himself and face his grief. Would it have gone more smoothly if he’d talked about it or not turned to alcohol? Possibly. But what came out of his reflection was something more personal, more cathartic.
À Demain (French for See You Tomorrow) is a play about his friends and their joy for life. O’Connell plays himself, and his brother portrays the best friend, who shows him the way out of the darkness.
A local parent, who knew all three young people who died, had this to say:
“It honors a fallen friend, it celebrates life, and it also reminds us how he died and the preventability of it all,” he said. “It is another way to learn the lessons that we, as parents, are all trying to impart.”
O’Connell’s play is part of the Capital Fringe Festival, where it is playing July 18, 20 and 25. For ticket information, www.capitalfringe.org.