Footprints–An Inspirational Comedy, the first play I wrote, premiered in Memphis, TN in 1999. Based on the popular poem Footprints in the Sand, in which a man has a dream that he is walking on the beach with the Lord and sees his life represented by footprints in the sand, I created four characters who each claim that they had the dream that led to the famous poem.
I actually began writing the play while I was in Love in Action. We needed comedy to survive the hard times there, and many a night we’d gather in Jeff’s or Scott’s bedroom as I tried a new character telling a new version of the story.
I still perform the play, most recently last October in Connecticut (and a command performance for Christine in Colorado). I will also perform excerpts in London this fall for Courage. Audiences ranging from Southern Baptists to LGBT Episcopalians have enjoyed it.
About three years ago I go received the following e-mail from a man named Basil Zangare:
I see you currently have a production running based on the poem Footprints in the
Sand. My mother was Mary Stevenson(Zangare) the author. I’m always
interested in how and when people first heard the poem.
Your slant on the story behind the poem doesn’t seem all that different from
real life. My mother had been trying to regain her rights to Footprints
for many years.
Basil, (which also happens to be the name of one of my Footprints characters), then tells me about a growing controversy over the authorship of the poem.
In the meantime a lot of people have come forward claiming to have authored it. Many are quite laughable claiming to have written it as recently as late as 1997 even though it has been seen in print since about 1950. It had been very disheartening for my mother to see so many taking credit for her work.
I knew a little of this controversy when I first built my Footprints website with my friend, Roy Steele, but assumed the right author was Mary Stevenson, yet another woman who did not get her due.
Then the other day I get this e-mail from Burrell Webb:
I appreciate that you have displayed my poem titled “FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND” on your web site however I disappointedted that you have credited it to one of the women who have been claiming credit for my work.
You must realise how this hurts me and I am sure you would not want someone to credit your work to another.
Therefore I ask that you take the time to either credit my poem to me or return it to “author unknown” as I origionaly released it.
Your prompt attention to this matter will be appreciated.
I decided that I will credit the poem to either “author unknown” or “author greedy for attention and money”. I don’t know Webb or Zangare apart from their e-mails. They can both be very decent guys, but face it, there is a HUGE Footprints market out there. You can purchase the Footprints Afgan (a blanket not a person we walked all over from Afghanistantan–although post-911 they are also available) for $44.95, the Footprints Porcelain Plate for $9.99 (reduced from $10.00!), the Footprints Wall Clock for a starting bid at ebay of $36.32, the Footprints Scented Candle for $10.00 (fixed price), and for a mere $79.00 the Footprints Diamond Heart Shaped Pendant.
In other words, there’s gold in them there Footprints! And I guess whoever can claim ownership of the poem can cash in on the profits. I know I sound dreadfully cynical, but why does something that inspires (or sickens in some cases) so many people have to “belong” to anyone? Of course if there was some guy running around performing a show called No Gay No Way or something like that, I might feel a bit defensive, especially if he broke into my lucrative Homo No productcct line (including the Homo No Mo Thong reasonably priced at $9.99!)
No idea how the Footprints war will ultimately play out. Micro-Celebrity Death Match? Footprints in the Sand Volleyball tournament? Footprints Def Jam Poetry Slam? Ah, WWJD?
(photo by Edward Rust–unless someone comes forward and says otherwise, then I have to hire some forensic experts to sort it all out)