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#NationalBestFriendsDay is trending on social media today. I smiled when I first saw the hashtag, because it reminded me of my best friend growing up: Julia Hanaway.

Julia and I were backyard neighbors. We would often hop the fence to play with each other after school. Julia was a year and eleven days older than me (she had my grandmother’s birthday.) I am a naturally gullible person–that, paired with our difference in age, made me a prime target for Julia to scare me with stories.

She once told me that my duplex was built on a graveyard and that the ghosts were going to come and kill me in my sleep if I didn’t do exactly what she said.(I would have done exactly what she said with or without the threat of the ghosts.) The scary story that she had crafted just for me bonded us together with an otherworldly secret.

We weren’t into playing dress up or tea parties or Barbies. The one time we played with Barbies, it was to cut off their hair and transform them into superheroes. We pretended we were Power Rangers and Mutant Ninja Turtles, pretending to fight with nunchucks and swords (made of sticks and duct tape.) We memorized and acted out Disney songs, but we focused on portraying the villains and comedic relief instead of the princesses.

We would play video games together. And by that, I mean that Julia would maneuver the character through the world of the game and I would shoot and monsters that came our way. We sat close together at the computer, terrorizing the villains that dared to cross our path.

One summer afternoon, we saw a squirrel fall from a tree. Her dog, Trixie, ran over and claimed it as prey. We shooed the dog away, ran into the house to find kitchen gloves and a 2 x 4. We pushed the dead squirrel onto the plank of wood and ran it around the backyard pretending we were paramedics before dumping the body into the sizeable hole we had been using to dig for gold. Covering up the squirrel in the gold hole/grave, we felt triumphant in the day’s escapade. We didn’t even need to use our imaginations to create a grizzly scene: a corpse had fallen from the sky.

Months later, Julia had a dream that the squirrel (which she had named Chucky) became zombified and attacked her in her bed at night. As she recounted the tale, it became clear that she concerned that she had angered the ghosts that she had told me were living under my house. The folklore of her own story had come back to haunt her. Needless to say, we had a much more even friendship after that.

Julia still writes stories. She’s working on a graphic novel, which I cannot wait to read. She reminds me of the character of Katurian in The Pillowman.

Katurian is a young man who has devoted his life to being a storyteller. Of the 400 stories he has written, only one has been published. When a string of crimes in town start to mimic his dark stories, he is brought in for questioning.

Katurian’s best friend is his brother, Michal. Max Cole-Takanikos and Aaron Simpson play the two brothers. Just like Julia and I grew up together, Max and Aaron grew up together, as their mothers are close friends. When two actors know each other as well as Max and Aaron do, it creates a short-hand for interacting with each other.

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Just as Julia told me stories and I believed every word, Katrurian tells his stories to his brother. It is their ritual. And from that ritual springs the drama central to the play.

Stories connect us: friend to friend, brother to brother and actors to audience members. I hope you’ll come to OutCast’s production of The Pillowman, so you can watch me and my cast tell you a darkly comedic story that you’ll remember for some time to come.

The Pillowman runs July 10-25. Tickets go onsale the second week of June. Learn more at http://www.outcastproductions.net/

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