A life (with strings attached) (excerpts only)
Daughter writes the coda to Red Clay Rambler Tommy Thompson's life story. 

By ORLA SWIFT, Staff Writer 

DURHAM - Jesse Thompson Eustice has seen her life torn to shreds before.  Yet here she sits, serene and strong, as Jeff Storer begins ripping it up again. 

This time is different. This time Eustice's pain is on paper, a script in the making. And duct tape can fix everything. 

Manbites Dog artistic director Jeff Storer and managing director Edward Hunt wrote the play with Eustice. Although it is largely autobiographical, its thrust is not that of a famous musician falling ill, but the more universal tale of a tenuous bond between a father and daughter and how this severe illness tested and strengthened that bond. 

A chicken leg 

The second time Jesse Eustice came to live with her father was in 1994, the year the doctors diagnosed his illness. Moving temporarily into his  one-bedroom apartment, she noticed a meaty chicken leg on the floor. She refrained from commenting, not wanting to embarrass her father. But he didn't seem to notice the leg, and it sat there for days. When Eustice finally picked it up, she saw it was rubber. A classic Tommy Thompson prank. But also a test, to see how friends would react. Thompson knew his illness would make him do things far stranger than shacking up with a chicken leg. 

"I never understood Dad as well as I did when I heard David [Ring] speaking his lines," she says. "Then all of a sudden Dad's point of view became much clearer to me. It just helped me to step out of myself and try to see this man, not necessarily my father, but how this man was dealing with his illness." 

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