by Alyssa Williams
On September 14, 2017, I was all packed and ready to leave to work on my first national tour. Then I got a phone call and suddenly I was unpacking. The reason why I didn’t go on the tour is a story for another time, but I will say that the idea for Two Thousand Miles would have never come about if I had gone.
I decided to book a month-long trip to Florida to visit family and take time to clear my head... or that’s what I was telling everyone. The truth is I didn’t want to face reality and fled. On my first night in Florida, I started keeping a gratitude journal (you basically just write down all the things you’re grateful for in that moment). It’s funny because I have this friend who would always tell me to keep one and I would roll my eyes at her and say, “what’s that going to do?” Well, let me tell you what it did.
After about a week of keeping the journal, I switched it up and started writing about past life experiences. In Junior High, I learned the meaning of “handle things like an adult.” During the first week of 8th grade, one of my friends got hit by a car and passed away. That same year, I got diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome which means some or all of a person's joints have an unusually large range of motion that can cause dislocations. Some people can go their whole lives without showing any symptoms, others (like me) need surgery to stop the dislocations.
The downside to any surgery is there can be complications. In the past two years, I’ve been diagnosed with three different forms of arthritis. One doctor said it’s because of the surgeries, another doctor said I’ve had it since I was a child, and so on. I’m going to be completely honest with you. On some days, it’s a struggle and I wish I was a “normal” 24 year old, but most days I’m proud I was given this fight because it makes me who I am.
One day I was reading through my journal and realized I was telling a story. For one small second, I thought to myself “maybe you should write a musical” but then I shook it off. A few days later, that thought popped into my head again. And again. And again. At that point, I knew it was something I was serious about. I read through my journal again with the idea of the musical in mind and realized something. I was the lead character in the story that I was telling, and my friends who I was writing about were the ensemble. But the people I was writing about weren’t only the ensemble in my journal entries, they were also the ensemble of my life. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to tell my story.
Right then and there a light bulb lit up. Before I went any further, I went to a friend in the business and told him about my idea. I was looking for reassurance and I got it. From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to have an ensemble cast with shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Next To Normal in mind. In an ensemble cast, every single character is important. If one of them were missing, you wouldn’t be able to tell the story. That’s what I wanted for Two Thousand Miles. Each character is based on a person close to me, mixed with some of my life experiences, and of course a little bit of embellishment. We have Davis - a college student who writes musicals in his free time and is living with lupus, Ava - a Hollywood actress who’s being forced to hide that she has rheumatoid arthritis, Julian - a musician who has a near death experience, and Jessica - an actress who suffers from depression. They all stand on their own and have their own storylines, but they are also very central to each other. They make each other's story complete.