John Frank says he is a “two stent guy.”
“Two tiny pieces of metal are the only things keeping me alive,” explains the executive and artistic director of Evanston’s 2nd Act Players.
Each stent was inserted after Frank had heart attacks, the first in 2012, the second in 2017.
Update 11/5/23: John Frank announced today that the performances this month of “So Now, What?” have been canceled as a result of “unexpected developments.”
Later this month, the 2nd Act company will perform Frank’s play, “So Now, What?”, an emotional reflection on self-identity after a near-death experience.
“I wanted to write stories about my life that would resonate with other people,” he explains.
Frank has written more than a dozen plays since founding the acting company in 2013, and the name, “2nd Act Players,” comes directly out of Frank’s first heart attack in 2012.
“I was walking to the train one day and couldn’t breathe,” Frank recalls.
Writing and producing for the theater literally became his “2nd Act.”
Not only did Frank have another heart attack, but a heart attack also claimed the life of his father, Salvatore Frank, in 1986, at age 67.
“That’s always haunted me,” Frank says. And, in fact, “So Now, What?” started out as a one-act play entitled “Talking With My Dad,” about a man speaking with the ghost of his father about things they did not discuss while dad was alive.
During the COVID pandemic, when the theater had to close, Frank expanded the play, adding a second act and changing the title.
The main character “goes through a real crisis of ‘who am I?'”, following retirement and heart attacks.
“When you stop doing what you identify with,” such as your career, “you have no identity in life.”
Clearly, as Frank notes, “this is my most personal play.”
But writing it is more than simply cathartic for the author.
“I hope it helps others dealing with similar issues,” he says.
Along those lines, Frank says there will be panel discussions after the Sunday matinees with therapists about post-heart attack recovery, both physical and emotional.
“We want these shows to start people talking about these issues,” Frank adds.
Besides writing a play straight from and about the heart, Franks also has what you might call a “3rd Act.”
He also runs a support group at Evanston Hospital for heart attack survivors.
Name of the group? “Mended Hearts.”
“So Now, What?” will be performed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 10 through 19 at the Northminster Presbyterian Church, 2515 Central Park Ave.
Ticket information is available online.