Weary Arts looks to turn Yorker's book into play


York City native David V.M. Kennedy put much of his life story into his recently self-published book, and Cal Weary, president of Weary Arts Group, wants to turn that book into more.

The two met Thursday at Marketview Arts and agreed to start the process of making Kennedy's book, "A Vicious Cycle: Escaping the Beast Within," into a play and potentially a film in the future.

Kennedy, who currently lives in Phoenix, said his book is "about 80 percent" based on actual events that he experienced, including growing up in York.

The book is predominantly set in York City, following a boy named Devon Chance as he grows up in a broken household, experiencing the effects of poverty, domestic abuse and bullying.

Devon, who Kennedy said is based on himself, struggles to avoid physical confrontations and people in York constantly bringing him down.

Kennedy uses real York locations — such as his Linden Avenue home and William Penn Senior High School (where he graduated in 1991) — because he's always been proud of his hometown. However, as he mentions throughout the story, he's always tried to get away, he said.

Though his parents still live here, his current return to York is only the third time he's been back since 2007, when he started the book (which he finished in 2014).

Though he expresses many negative feelings toward York in his book, Kennedy said his perception of the city has changed and the city has been changing on its own.

"My mental state is so positive now that I only see the positive," he said. "(Since being back), I've started to notice more positive and influential people."

Weary echoed Kennedy's sentiment, telling the author that "if ever there was a time to move back, now is it."

Weary was immediately drawn to Kennedy's book, he said, because a lot of the situations that are described in the story remind him of his own experiences growing up in York.

Weary had originally thought of turning the story into a television show through White Rose Community Television, which Weary's artist-collective business recently took over, but he ultimately decided a play would be the best route because it would foster community involvement and interaction.

Weary's pitch included a long-term plan to license the play, turn it into a film and attract a national audience, especially from others who grew up in third-class cities similar to York.

Weary's hope is to be able to produce the play by the beginning of next summer or fall, he said.

Kennedy, describing the situation as "a dream come true," emphatically agreed to begin the process with Weary so long as anything created stayed true to his original work.

Kennedy has already begun work on a sequel, focusing on Devon's relationship with one of his brothers.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.