A Memo from James Michael Shoberg

I’m sure my Rage of the Stage Players’ family has been wondering where I’ve been since the announcement of Adrienne Fischer’s passing this past Friday. It’s out of character for me not to have something so say. To be honest, with the suicide of one friend this year; my bipolar ups-and-downs, already magnified by isolation and the bleakest of personal circumstances; and the myriad blows from multiple other directions; I’ve been spending my downtime in bed, rising only to feed the cats. I thought such a dismal existence was pretty much rock-bottom, until November 13th.

I’ve been dreading this. I don’t even know where to begin to try to encapsulate how I felt about Adrienne in a single Facebook post. It would be insulting to even try. So here I go, you crazy bitch: 

Adrienne was a dear friend to me; a twisted kindred spirit; a fellow die-hard horror, “Golden Girls”, and “Hocus Pocus” lover (among many other things); a brilliant actress and comedienne; and a muse to me as a playwright. Our mutual friend Allison M. Weakland brought Adrienne into the Rage theatrical coven about—creepily enough—13 years ago. Adrienne clicked straight away with our warped, unapologetic culture, and, in the many shows to follow, did us the honor of originating a wide array of characters, such as: Lucy Westenra in “Dracula: Dragon Prince”, Morgan le Fay in “Villains”, Samantha Teal in “The Hamiltons”, Billie Jukes in “Hooked”, and Rabbit in “Winnie-the-Pooh and the Seven Deadly Sins”, but, she was memorable for none more so than as my beloved Dottie Gale in “Dorothy in Oz”—a role written specifically for her and her special brand of humor, and one which she played in three different productions. I still recall a particularly funny moment during a rehearsal, when the actor playing Skarekrow turned and, as if amidst an epic moment of clarity, said, “Is it just me, or is Adrienne playing Jim?” Such was our shared taste for dark, over-the-top, snarky humor. I still remember how ecstatic Adrienne was to have her image as Dottie Gale illustrated on the poster for the second production of “Dorothy in Oz”.

With that in mind, I know the fact that Adrienne will be well-represented and immortalized in my forthcoming horror poetry book, where she’s the subject of a sinister and gory little piece called “Art Attack”, would’ve pleased her immensely. Her set work, another of her theatrical talents Rage benefited from over the years, will also appear in a “Fright Night” compendium, containing a chapter on Rage’s stage adaptation of the 1985 film (one of her favorites), which will be published in Spain.

I’m sad to say that the last time I set eyes upon Adrienne was two years ago this past October, and we parted on very bitter terms. Adrienne was my set designer at the time, and the two of us had shared quite a bit of uncharacteristic conflict throughout the production—the source of which only came to light (for me) later. I had no clue what she was enduring at the time, and I came dangerously close to losing her without any measure of closure or, more importantly, letting her know how I really felt about her. That said, an uncontrollable impulse on my part was, I hope, able to remedy that.

As I mentioned above, Adrienne and I both had a love of “Hocus Pocus” and, whenever I’d see anything involving the film, she would always spring to mind. Well, one night, as I was surfing the net (Do people even say that anymore? I don’t know things about stuff.), I happened upon a “Hocus Pocus”/Queen mash-up shirt, and (after consulting her wife, Kim), decided to have one printed and sent to her. It took a while to arrive at her home, but, once it did, I received a text featuring a photo of a bald woman, beaming from ear-to-ear, and giving me the double “thumbs up,” with this message to follow:

“Well, THIS was a very unexpected and incredibly freaking awesome thing. Now when people call you a monster, you can show them this sickly, cancer-ridden, “Make-a-Wish”, bald woman, whose dreams you made come true with this fucking epic-ass t-shirt. Seriously. Thank you. I love you, you sick, but endearing fuck.”

(And now…NOW, for the first time since I received the news, I’m starting to cry. Damn bipolar disorder. Thanks, Adrienne. I’m trying to type here.)       

Adrienne, my forever Dottie Gale, taken too soon, thank you for making me laugh, and for lending Rage the benefit of your considerable artistic talents, both on and off stage, so that we could create a lot of very memorable shows over the years. You always made me laugh, and I don’t think there’s any better way to remember someone. With that in mind, I’ll sign off with the ludicrously inaccurate self-reference that always made you laugh.

I’ll remember you always.

– Pittsburgh’s Most Beloved Man