Origin stories

By now, millions of people near and far have heard her story. But it still sounds epic every time she speaks.

Regina Louise, now of Walnut Creek, grew up in the grind of Northern California’s foster-care system, bumped from home to home like a human pinball. Her parents abandoned her when she was young, caretakers abused her and she lived in more than 30 placements. Through it all, there was a caring shelter counselor named Jeanne Kerr, who nurtured Louise when each foster placement failed. Kerr wanted to adopt Louise herself but, back then, courts and social workers didn’t approve of black children being placed with white parents. Finally, after three decades, the two women became an official family in 2003. At 40, Louise had the new mom she’d always wanted.

Louise also has become a motivational speaker, an acclaimed author with her best-selling memoir Somebody’s Someone and a spokesperson for National Foster Care Month. Hers is a tale of trials and triumphs, of love and loss and life lessons. And on May 2, she’ll share the tale on the Sacramento stage for the world premiere of her one-woman show, Someone’s Somebody.

Don’t think this is easy for her.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said candidly over a bowl of pasta at Romano’s Macaroni Grill not long ago. “I’ve traveled around the country, spoken to millions and I would do it with my eyes closed on one leg hanging from a trapeze and it wouldn’t be as challenging as this.”

That’s because this performance marks the first time Louise actually will act out her own life’s journey. In the show, she portrays multiple characters, all of whom played a part in her painful past.

“All the people I’ve just talked about in the speeches, now I will become them,” she said. “Now, I have to step in their skin and re-enact some of the things they did.”

For months, Louise has been practicing for five to 12 hours a day. (To cleanse her mind afterward, she indulges her favorite pastime: shoe shopping.) It was a childhood dream to perform, she said, especially when so many people told her she would fail in life.

“I owe it to that little girl,” Louise said of her younger self. “I owe it to her to do what she wanted to do 35 years ago. From solitary confinement to center stage.”

So, logical question: Is she nervous?

After repeating the question quietly to herself for a moment, finally she shook her head. “I don’t have the luxury of being nervous,” she said. “From the wise words of Yoda, there is no such thing as try, you either do it or you don’t.”