over the place, from Savannah, Georgia, where Donald was born,
to Michigan, Arkansas, Nebraska, California, and finally Texas,
where Donald went to Texas Tech and the University of North
Texas before heading to Los Angeles to study acting at Playhouse
His mother, he recalled, was “a woman in the wrong time.
She wanted what men wanted. So she had to leave and grab life.
She lived in her car, with princes in Saudi Arabia (so she said and
Donald believed her), and wanted to be a singer, but to no huge
avail.” She settled finally in California and wrote a few letters to
Donald. He tried to find her and, at last, she answered the phone.
She also flew to Dallas the next weekend to see him. What’s more,
he recalled, she “kept her sex appeal” till the end, about five years
Donald grew up with his father and brother plus a stepmother
and her son whom she brought into the family. His brother, Chris,
an accomplished musician living now in Kansas City, is the only
member of the family with whom Donald said he now feels any
Donald wrote other plays, including The Politics of Up, a two-
character script set in an elevator, and a one-man show called Jacket
Required. Creep, however, is his first big production. The songs set
the path, and he wrote them without a piano or lessons or any
capacity for reading music. He did get a small Casio keyboard and
“plunked around.” “I had an itch in my fingers,” he explained.
Once he discovered the answer to the enterprise in Jack the
Ripper, he “had to sit in that stew,” keeping paper everywhere to
make notes and work out plot problems, sometimes in the middle
of the night.
Mother’s Arms was the initial tune, but how to get it beyond
that Casio and notes known only to Donald Fowler? Enter Patty
Breckenridge, an actor, singer, and friend who listened to him
run through the number, then recorded it so a transcriber could
get the music down on a page with a proper staff and treble and
bass clefs. In time Dan Kazemi in New York, music director of
Milwaukee Rep, supplied orchestration. In time, also, Donald had
a collection of songs that he built into a full-blown play.
But there were no takers for a full production, even after
the great success at WaterTower. So Donald linked up with the
Uptown Players to apply for a grant from the Donna Wilhelm
Family New Works Fund at TACA. Thanks to that, another
workshop followed with Uptown. Where at first Creep had been
written cinematically, now it became more theatrical. Donald saw
Peter and the Starcatcher in New York, and it helped him solve the
matter of fog. A chorus of Londoners was added to clarify the
story as it’s happening. So was a small ensemble with acoustic
violin and cello, string basses, a lot of percussion and keyboard.
Everything was in place except the money.
Then came the big breaks. Scott and Heather Wiese Alexander,
owners of Nest, had an evening meeting at their house. Four
songs were performed, $15,000 was raised. Lynn McBee couldn’t
be there that night, so she had a gathering of her own, at Brook
Hollow, and pulled in another $15,000. Now a major workshop
was assured. Soon the Kalita Humphreys Theater was ablaze
with costumes, lighting, and Terry Martin of Water Tower in the
audience. He agreed to do the show.
Kate Galvin, a specialist in new musicals, was summoned from
Philadelphia to direct. Under her tutelage, the script acquired
more emotional muscle. The musicians found a way to make
their instruments sound more expressive, as in the opera Everest,
where howling winds could be heard in the orchestra. Wigs were
arranged in pink, blue, and purple for women who were “
super-duper strong characters” as Donald described them, dealing with
“men who were weak.” Now, said Fowler, Creep is “so different
and tough and hard.” “People are so disconnected,” he added (an
ironic result of the age of connectivity through cell phones), “that
it takes something shocking to make them feel human.”
Creep promises plenty of shock therapy. Where it will go from
Dallas nobody knows. But Donald Fowler is ready with more
ideas. He’d like to do a dramatic version of Rigoletto set in a law
firm, and a play about San Domino, an island in the Adriatic to
which Mussolini sent gays in 1938. A year later, with world war
looming, Il Duce ordered their return, but many did not want to
go back to the lies they were forced to live in Italy. They preferred
the chance to be themselves, even in detention.
For now, though, Donald Fowler is consumed with Creep,
where “everybody is desperate to keep whatever secrets they have
hidden, or away, where they don’t have to deal with them.” Madly
articulate, bristling with talent, Donald is ready, as never before,
to deal with the implications of his efforts buttressed by the
firm belief that Dallas theater is ready for this jarring kind of