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Tell Me

Did you ever notice how young people often get a bad rap as being lazy and uninvolved? Well, meet Matthew Crehan Higgins, a Buffalo playwright who began writing his first script, "Confessions," at 19 and had it produced by the time he was 21. Now 29, Higgins has "The Casual Sex Diary" and "Making Gay History" under his belt. His latest one-man show, "The Pipes Are Calling: An Elegy to Dan Higgins Sr.," will open at Buffalo United Artists Theatre at 8 tonight and continue through Sept. 19. (See www.buffalobua.org.)

>What influence did your grandfather have on you while you were growing up and what inspired you to make him the focus of your latest work?

When I think about my grandfather, the first thing that comes to mind is that he lived an authentic life. He was very forthcoming, direct, open, generous and honest. He didn't leave people wondering and was a very natural, effective leader. My life is far less traditional than his, but I strive for that same authenticity.

>What kind of research process did you go through in writing this elegy to your grandfather?

We lived it. And as my grandfather was progressing deeper into dementia, we were inundated with stories from people about the impact he had on their lives. Some of those stories have influenced the show but, ultimately, the biggest research came in the way of time spent with him. In a lot of ways, I feel that I got closer to him in his final two years. As he became more and more like a child, I gained a real sense of how who he had been, made me who I am.

>Did you discover anything unexpected during the research process?

I became aware of how like my father I am. You learn so much watching your parent become the caretaker of their parent. During the time this show describes, I would hear myself say things and realize that it was something my Dad would say. My father is an obvious product of his father, and I found a greater understanding of how I am a product of both of them. What has been the reaction of your family to your writing of this piece? Well, my family has never been shy. My grandfather was a public figure and my Uncle Brian [Rep. Brian Higgins] is currently. But this is probably the most personal thing that we have all been through together. I think that they trust me. I think that they know that, ultimately, it is a story about love and understanding one's role within a family.

>What do you hope the audience will "take away" from your piece?

I hope that when people see this, they will realize that it is OK to feel blindsided by seeing a loved one change drastically right before you. That there is no shame in the change itself, nor in not knowing what to do about it. And, still, we find moments of pleasure and new memories during those times.

-- Joan Barone McDonald

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