HIGHLAND PARK – Kelly Haramis turned her struggles with infertility and the road to adopting a baby in China into a one-woman show. Double Happiness: A Tale of Love, Loss and One Forever Family bravely chronicles her journey in its Chicago revival beginning Sunday, September 6.
The playwright and performer was surprised when she couldn’t become pregnant, because she was born into a feracious gene pool. “My great-grandfather on my mother’s-mother’s side was the ‘most fertile man.’ He had 20 biological children,” said Haramis.
Haramis and her husband Davis Schneiderman chose to adopt a child in China, because their niece is from China, and the babies are known for being well-treated and healthy. The couple moved to Highland Park 10 years ago when Schneiderman became an English professor at Lake Forest College.
As Haramis was looking forward to welcoming a new family member, she had to suddenly say goodbye to another shortly after adoption plans were underway.
“My mom was really excited that I was going to become a mother and adopt a baby girl from China. She planned to travel to China with us. She had the right of way when she was crossing the street, and a truck hit her. It was horrible, heartbreaking, shocking to lose my mom. Words can’t really describe the loss I felt then and still feel now without my mom,” she said.
“Double Happiness resonates across generations. Even though we’ve all been through tough times, there’s a silver lining at the end of the tunnel,” said Haramis.
According to Haramis, the adoption process took two years and involved everything from being fingerprinted to an eight hour interview before they were approved in China.
Haramis encourages others interested in adoption “to be patient, and even though there’s a long wait it’s worth it.”
When Haramis went to China to pick up her baby girl, she was three months pregnant with her other child; a true Double Happiness.
Her dad accompanied them on the trip. “He loved being a grandfather. My dad died from heart failure five years to the day of my mom,” said Haramis.
Haramis chronicled her struggles with infertility and adoption in the Chicago Tribune, but it wasn’t until she studied at the iO Training Center (for comedy improv) that she decided to turn her tale into a one-woman show.
“I started doing an improv about my personal experiences, and the young males in their 20s were all touched by my stories. The instructor said, ‘There’s your one-woman show,’” she remembered.
Double Happiness: A Tale of Love, Loss and One Forever Family premiered in May of 2012 in Chicago. Haramis has also performed to rave reviews in New York, Montreal and Orlando.
“My mom would have loved my daughters so much. Becoming a mother showed me that life goes on, and my beautiful daughters, who are now eight and nine years old, radiate sunshine. Even when I miss my parents, my daughters make my day brighter,” said Haramis.
“I know Double Happiness so well, that it’s like my third baby. Reliving it on stage is very rewarding and cathartic too,” said Haramis
Double Happiness is part of the Chicago Fringe Festival. Performances are at Windy City Music Theatre Blackbox Studio 5340-5342 W. Lawrence Avenue on the following dates:
Sunday September 6, 4 p.m.; Monday September 7, 7 p.m.; Thursday Sept 10, 10 p.m.; Saturday September 12, 7 p.m.; and Sunday September 13, 5:30 p.m.