It’s the kind of incident that playwright Carlyle Brown could have written to start one of his plays, except that it was all too real.
As he slept in his Minneapolis home one night about a month ago, his wife, Barbara Rose-Brown, rose to get some water. Somewhere in the hallway, she took a tumble. Brown leapt out of bed and rushed to her aid. She could not speak to tell him what happened. And she did not have movement in one side.
He knew fairly quickly that his wife of 20-plus years, who also was his dramaturg, partner and sometime muse, had suffered a stroke. He rushed her quickly to the emergency room, where they cleared the blood clot and put her in intensive rehab.
Now the playwright, whose works include "Pure Confidence" and "The Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show," is praying for a miraculous ending.
“Barb has this wacky sense of humor and she can be stubborn, which is very useful right now in terms of fighting,” Brown said of his wife, a minister’s daughter who was born in South Dakota and works as a product validator at Target. “I’m pretty proud of her. I used to think that she’s this fragile woman but apparently she’s not. She doesn’t have speech yet, but when we communicate, she’s telling me she’s in there fighting.”
The health crisis came just Brown was preparing to open his play, “Down in Mississippi,” at the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul. Directed by Noel Raymond and starring Mikell Sapp, Adelin Phelps and Tony Sarnicki, and featuring the song stylings of Mari Harris, the music-infused play is about a trio of young civil rights activists in 1964.
“To have this show at this moment has actually been comforting,” said Brown. “It’s not just a distraction from our troubles. It’s meaningful to have something like this while you’re going through your own [stuff]. And the community has been really great rallying around us.”
Seattle-based dramatist Todd London has set up a Go Fund Me page to help the couple during this time of distress, and the drive has raised more than half of its $20,000 goal in less than a week. Contributions have come from across the country, including playwright Marcus Gardley, who thanked Brown and, by extension, his wife, for their “life-changing, fearless and exquisite art.”
The playwright has been drawing inspiration from his wife.
“I’ve had loss in my family — when I was a young man, they hopped off on cancer one after the other,” said Brown. “But nothing really prepares you for something like this. She has the will to fight and I try to encourage her every day. That’s everything I have to do right now.”