Guest Blogger: 2017 semi-finalist playwright, Katherine James

I read the words “Hot Mess” and I know immediately who needs to come out of my heart and mind and onto the page.


I meet dozens of dozens of people every year in my “other” life as a trial consultant.

Most of those relationships are bright and brief. Intense and temporary. Fearless and fleeting.

Exactly like those I have had in the theatre since I was a kid.

But then every once-in-a-while there is someone who I just can’t let go of.

Whose story and life terrify me.

Trial consultants who do research tell me that there is a psychological principle that when we hear a tale of woe we immediately to figure out how that could never happen to us.

To show you how much this principle not only haunts my work but me I can never remember what it is called.


You’ll tell me what it is again and I will say, “Right, right, that’s it!” and immediately forget it.

I spend so much time trying to figure out how to make the story of the trial case not get overwhelmed by this principle you’d think that alone would sear the name on my memory.

But I know the truth.

That I, too, am afraid.

Afraid that what happened to any given person I meet could happen to me.

Every once in a while I meet someone who simply bowls me over with the terror of waking up to that person’s face being the one that greets me in the mirror when I wake up from a pleasant dream.

That the horror of that person’s life is suddenly my own.

Paul was an is one of those people.

I can’t imagine anything worse than to go from being a smart, accomplished, happy and ambitious person to having a brain that is a “Hot Mess”.

The crazy thing is, I’ve met a lot of people whose brains are now, through no fault of their own, a “Hot Mess”.

But for some reason they are able to accept, adapt, do the best they can with what they’ve got, make a new meaningful life…to blow me away since secretly I always doubt seriously I could ever be one of them.

Maybe that’s what haunts me so about Paul.

Neither can he.

Now the case is won.

The circus tent of the trial has folded its tent and left town.

A teary eyed jury decided to award Paul ever-so-much-but-never-enough-to-make-life-what-it-was dollars from the company that didn’t give a rat’s ass about him when they made his brain a “Hot Mess”.

And so I offer him here to you.

All wrapped up with my greatest fears.

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