This story was originally commissioned by NUVO Newsweekly
Tedious commutes are too common in many large cities. You can never get that hour or so of your life back. But when faced with three to four hours of total drive time between home in Zionsville and work in Terre Haute, Dr. Louis Janeira, a cardiologist at the Providence Medical Group, looked at it as an opportunity instead of a loss. He hired a driver and decided to spend his “me” time in the car doing something he loves—writing. Lucky for him, he can manage it without the threat of motion sickness. “I’ve never had that problem. I’m lucky that way.”
Using the pen name Dr. L. Jan Eira, and also known as “The MD Writer,” Janeira has created numerous mystery/thriller shorts, novels, and plays, one of which, The Gift, will be staged this weekend at the IndyFringe-Indy Eleven Theatre. This is the second production of the play; the premiere was at the Community Theatre of Terre Haute in June, which played to sold-out audiences.
The Gift explores suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, cancer, hallucinations, and mental disease. It is a story about a girl, Eleanor, who is mysteriously “gifted” with foresight. Eleanor believes this phenomenon is linked to her mother’s own visions of the future. Eleanor must determine what is truth and what is imagination in her mother’s mind because if she fails, it will lead to her death.
The show is coming full circle in its IndyFringe staging. “I wrote a 10-minute play called The Final Word for the Short Play Festival at IndyFringe in 2016. It was loved by all. I decided to write a full-length play around it,” Janeira says. This time, the play will be under the direction of Jan Jamison. “I respect and admire [her],” he says. “She recently won five Encores for her direction and work on Indy stages. I picked her because of how I admire her talents.” That admiration extends to handing over the helm of the production completely. “I purposely have not interfered at all with the director as I trust totally in her talent and ability to put a successful run on stage. I’m excited to see the end result.”
A common mantra in writing is to “write what you know,” and Janeira has done just that with all of his works. “Being a medical doctor, writing with medical undertones comes natural and easy for me. I feel I am uniquely positioned for that purpose. I would not say my writing influences my work as a cardiologist,” he says, which is good news for his patients, as many of his fictions include suspicious deaths, “but I definitely think my artistic work is heavily influenced by my medical practice. Certain cases and patients provide me fodder for my playwriting.”
Janeira has been a longtime supporter of the arts, and through his ingenuity of using that commute downtime as a creative outlet, he can now take an active role in the theater scene. After a case of writer’s block with his young adult books, The Traveler Series about time-traveling teens, he decided to shake things up and take some playwriting courses. “I love theater and have been a huge consumer most of my adult life. My first play ever was Annie, which I saw on Broadway in 1975. I’ve been mesmerized by staged arts ever since. I mostly admire the works of Lin Manuel Miranda and Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber.”
His own playwriting debut was The Ambush, a medical murder mystery, which played on stage in Carmel in 2015. Following that, The Final Word and Stop Crying! were staged at the IndyFringe theater in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The Curse of Count Dicky, Secrets of the Heart, and The Final Word were staged at 4th Street Theater in Chesterton, Indiana, in 2016 and 2017. “My short play, Secret of the Heart, was staged off off Broadway in 2016. That was my proudest moment,” he says. In the future, “I’m planning to stage Critical Recall and The Freshman that Could in 2018. The Casualty will hopefully be staged in 2018 or 2019. Theaters in Terre Haute, Brazil, Green Castle, and others are looking at several of my pieces and hopefully will give me the honor of a production in 2018. Also, Chesterton, Indiana, will hopefully produce one of my plays in 2018.”
While his subject matter may seem dark, his writing is actually cathartic. He says in his blog, “I do it because it brings me peace. It relaxes me. It puts me in a different world, one where patients don’t die despite my best efforts to help them, where the people I advise actually follow my every guidance and counsel. Not the place where I work, where these things don’t always happen.”