Friday, November 23, 2007

The Last

The Kentucky Cycle Remix by Greg, 11/16/07 (to the tune of My Old Kentucky Home):

The show must end,
And tomorrow we will strike
And return to our normal lives.

Our friends, family,
Our husbands and wives will say,
"We're so glad you survived."

Weep no more, my cast mates.
Oh weep, no more today.
We will sing one song as this play comes to an end,
And we'll sing it with our new thirty friends.

So we ended the run with tears during the final song and hugs and tears in the dressing room. I am grateful for this experience with this cast and crew, many of whom I will miss and others who I will haunt so as not to miss them too much. A few days after we closed I began to get angry at the people who said they would come but didn't. I'm proud of the work we did and wish more people, especially more of my friends, had seen it. But such is life. This was a big challenge and I am glad for having had the opportunity, the shared experience, the camaraderie and the support of our cast, which shone brightest on the nights when we outnumbered the house. We should pat ourselves on the back for a job more than well done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Margaret Garner, Fugitive Slave

This is from "The Kay Bourne Arts Report" published by The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc. and Kay Bourne. In preparing for young Sallie each night, I try to imagine how she came to be in the hands of Michael Rowen and what her life was like before she was a slave. When I think of the lengths some of my ancestors went through to try to free themselves or just to survive their circumstances, I am amazed at the sacrifices they were willing to make and wonder what situation I could possibly find myself in that would make me do the same.


For the opera "MARGARET GARNER," Toni MORRISON revisited the account of a trial in February, 1856 which had inspired her to write her novel "Beloved." The two act opera, first performed in May, 2005, is one of the few operas written about the African American experience, the other notable examples being George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" and "Treemonisha" by Scott Joplin, an African American, as is Morrison.

New York City Opera, housed at Lincoln City, recently staged the emotionally involving "Margaret Garner" with its charming lyrical score from Richard Danielpour and a searing libretto by Morrison. Brilliantly directed by Tazewell Thompson and magnificently sung and acted with Tracie Luck in the title role, the stunning production so captivated the audience that cheers went up when a cruel overseer was killed in one of the twists of the gripping story.

Margaret Garner, 22, had escaped slavery on a night of record freezing temperatures, crossing the frozen Ohio River on foot in an expedition led by her husband who had been hired out to labor on a nearby estate. They were fleeing to Cincinnati, Ohio, a free state, less than 20 miles away from the Richwood, Kentucky estate, Maplewood, where she toiled and had been repeatedly raped by its owner Archibald K. Gaines.

When the U.S. Marshalls, including Gaines, find them, there is a shoot out in which the husband wounds two of the deputies. Faced with the imminent return to slavery, she slits her daughter's throat and attempts to murder her three other small children rather than see them returned to slavery. Because Margaret Garner was subject to the terms of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and also liable for murder in the state of Ohio, the trial became the longest fugitive slave case of the antebellum era. Had she destroyed property by killing the child or committed murder? (This) became the tangled issue that lengthened the trial.

Morrison has said that "Beloved" was about forgetting. About the avoidance of the subject of slavery that neither Whites nor Blacks are comfortable thinking about. That shutting out the past became structurally what held the book together. She approached the libretto knowing that in opera there is very little nuance and ambiguity. So while Morrison does portray Margaret Garner as a complex character, with the opera she keeps more to the facts of her life as Morrison could determine them from news accounts. "If you're going to make it bigger and theatrical than you have to get your facts right," she told City Opera dramaturg Cori Nelson about how the libretto differs from the novel inspired by the same life. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Surviving The Kentucky Cycle

I should have posted this a while ago but hey, we've been doing the show, right? I wrote this and sent it off to friends after our opening weekend.

October 8, 2007
I Survived Opening Weekend of The Kentucky Cycle


Tomorrow I hope to feel somewhat rested.

What a week.

After a seven hour rehearsal last Saturday, we had two days off before tech. We teched part one on Tuesday evening without props and costumes -- our first night on the stage -- and began the psychological process of existing in small spaces within the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) black box with 22 other actors. (Tech rehearsals are not fun: there is a lot of waiting around for cues to be set, redoing cues, waiting for the designers to make changes at the discretion of the director. As a result, everyone can get antsy and testy. Thankfully, we have a wonderful production stage manager who does her best to keep things moving so we get through it as quickly as possible with as little pain as possible.) There is a cross-over upstage which is just wide enough for two actors to pass each other chest-to-chest. A few times during the show the cross over is full of actors changing and waiting to go on. Thankfully, the BCA cleared out, cleaned up and carpeted the dressing room over the summer but ventilation is still an issue. We all sweat profusely and take turns sitting by the dressing tables where we can enjoy some cool air from the fan. The small back corner of the room is big enough for the women in the cast, our rack of costumes and boxes of shoes. A curtain and chairs make it a nice cozy little space in which we can nest. My castmate Melissa has a calm and innocent air about her, almost as if she is always looking at the world with new eyes and simple appreciation. On Friday evening we were in the nest and in a very child-like manner she said she likes our "woman hole." With tears streaming down our cheeks we didn't stop laughing for five minutes. The men have a space on the other side with two racks of costumes, plus their stuff tends to overfllow onto the makeup tables and general floor space. We deal with it and it all works just fine.

On Wednesday evening we teched part two, again without props and costumes. The stage is much higher than we envisioned and negotiating the steps upstage isn't as easy as we would like. The treads are a little shallow and the rise is deep. Thursday was a full dress from noon until approximately 11:30pm during which time I slightly twisted my ankle and more seriously hurt my heel. Some props were still missing -- my iron shackles, onstage food, you name it -- music and lyrics still being learned, people working on pacing, etc. Friday evening was spent concentrating on specific problem areas and we got out a little early.

As expected, our Saturday opening -- call at noon, show at 2p -- felt more like a final dress than anything else. After checking in at the theater, I walked across the street to Francesca's for a tea and sandwich. Standing at the counter, I could barely form words.

"Can I help you?"

"Um, yes." (loooong pause)

The young man at the counter patiently waits.

"Um, yes. I'd like a, eh, ah, ummm..."

*big sigh*

"Sorry. I'm just really exhausted and can't form a coherent sentence right now... Give me a minute."

Five minutes later after an audible stumble through the words "ginger-peach tea", "chicken mini sandwich" and "chocolate chunk cookie", I get my order and wander back to the theater.

Openings are amazing. The body can be totally exhausted but the mind (and ego, I suspect) kick in. You want to do a good show for the audience, your fellow cast mates, your director, yourself and the critics, and not necessarily in that order. Energies you remember having before the week of tech are suddenly summoned. The hours of an aggravating day beforehand are lost. You set your props and costumes, put on your makeup, warm up and do your best to hit your marks and shine.

We had some press in the house on Saturday even though it was not the press opening: Louise Kennedy from The Globe and Larry Stark from Theatre Mirror. I did not forget the words to the second verse of "Amazing Grace" for my solo at the top of the show. Gun shots actually came at the right time. The floor was a little sticky from thrown Cream of Wheat but no one slipped on it. Jonathan was able to get me out of the shackles onstage so I didn't have to use the emergency allen wrench in the dressing room. No audience members or lights were taken out by rifles. Jacob was safely lowered into the trap upstage. We formed a union and chanted the correct number of "Union!"'s on our exits. Heart-wrenching, soul-sucking ending number 1 with the cast marching out singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Phew.

Dinner break at 5:20p, back for fight call at 6:30p. In between I get a quick hug from a friend who I forgot was coming (she knows someone else in the cast), limp to CVS to get more items for my sore and swollen foot, grab a tea and a slice and curl my hair for part 2. 7:30p curtain. Some new faces in the house. Odd that they didn't see the first performance of part 1 but they are here for the first performance of part 2. Our director gives them a 10 second rundown of the events of part 1 and we begin. Land is bought for a song, guns sold and used, husbands shunned. Lovers part, sons die and most importantly, a dead baby truly put to rest. Heart-wrenching, soul-sucking ending number 2 as the cast sings "My Old Kentucy Home". 11:15pm. My friend tells me she enjoyed the show, gives me a hug and goes home.

Omigod, someone get me a drink.

Like Jews wandering the desert, we try to find a place to drink that can accomodate approximately 15 people on a Saturday night at 11:30p. Sibling Rivalry will not let us in because they are filled to capacity. We leave three cast members there and wander to Masa. Too loud. Do we go to the theater district or up towards the Back Bay T? A show of hands indicates a split vote. I decide to check back at Sibling and then head toward the T, like a pied piper with cast members in tow. We finally end up at Delux which is remarkably empty. Yay for $5 mixed drinks. I finally spend some time speaking with our fight captain with whom I had very little contact. He doesn't know that we have a friend in common. We chat for a bit and then I hang with my castmates as we drink and contemplate Sunday.

Sunday I wake up just in time to shower and get to the theater for 12:30p call. Grab some food at Francesca's and hope that we have a good show for the press. Four press people are in the house. Someone sobs audibly during my first scene. Most but not all of the audience stays for part 2. This doesn't bother us since one doesn't have to buy tickets for both parts at the same time. They laugh, they cry... it really is better than "Cats". Afterwards we wander up to Delux but it is closed so we end up back at the BCA at the Beehive next door. My friend Krista is on the bar and happy to see us. We devour food and drinks and begin to accept the exhaustion we've all kept at bay. A man at the bar attempts to pick up all of the women in our cast although not at the same time. Somewhere around 1am my friend/castmate Brian is ready to go so he drives me home. After falling asleep on my couch with Miss Lily Cat, I crawl in bed around 3:30a to catch a few hours before coming to work. I don't remember the last time I was this tired. Note to self: Don't attempt to do a six-hour show unless you are making a living in theater and don't have to go to another job.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Sole survivor of Sago Mine disaster says some of the miners' air packs failed

Vicki Smith Associated Press April 27, 2006

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. -- Trapped deep below ground by poisonous gases, the Sago miners realized at least four of their air packs did not work and were forced to share the devices as they desperately pounded away with a sledgehammer in hopes of letting rescuers know where to find them, the sole survivor says.

Then, resigned to their fate, the men recited a "sinner's prayer," scrawled farewell notes to their loved ones, and succumbed, one after another, some as if drifting off to sleep.

"As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else," Randal McCloy Jr. wrote to his co-workers' families in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press.

McCloy's two-page typed letter offered the most detailed account yet of what happened in the mine after the Jan. 2 explosion, along with criticism that the mine's operator, International Coal Group Inc., let them down.

The blast killed one miner and spread carbon monoxide that slowly asphyxiated 11 other men 260 feet below ground as they waited in the farthest reaches of the mine to be rescued.

McCloy spokeswoman Aly Goodwin Gregg said Thursday that McCloy's letter was given to the families confidentially, and he would not comment further. ICG did not immediately return a call for comment.

The air packs -- referred to in the letter as "rescuers" -- are intended to give each miner about an hour's worth of oxygen while they escape or find a pocket of clean air. But at least four of the devices did not function, McCloy said.

"There were not enough rescuers to go around," McCloy said. He said he shared his air pack with one man, and three other miners sought help from others.

The miners returned to their shuttle car in hopes of escaping along the track but had to abandon their efforts because of bad air. They then retreated, hung a curtain to keep out the poisonous gases, and tried to signal their location by beating on the mine bolts and plates.

"We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time, we took turns pounding away," McCloy wrote. "We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could. This effort caused us to breathe much harder. We never heard a responsive blast or shot from the surface."

Martin "Junior" Toler, 51, and Tom Anderson, 39, made another, last-ditch attempt to find a way out but were quickly turned back by heavy smoke and fumes, McCloy said.

"We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate," he wrote. "Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer."

McCloy said the air behind the curtain grew worse, and he lay as low as possible and tried to take shallow breaths, but became lightheaded.

"Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep, and one person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him," McCloy wrote. "The last person I remember speaking to was Jackie Weaver, who reassured me that if it was our time to go, then God's will would be fulfilled."

He said he has no idea much time went by before he passed out.

Doctors have been unable to pinpoint why McCloy, 27 was the only who survived the 41 hours it took rescuers to find the crew. He left the mine battered and comatose and is still recovering from brain damage.

"I cannot begin to express my sorrow for my lost friends and my sympathy for those they left behind," he wrote. "I cannot explain why I was spared while the others perished. I hope that my words will offer some solace to the miners' families and friends who have endured what no one should ever have to endure."

The Sago miners were using air packs manufactured by Monroeville, Pa.-based CSE Corp., according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The packs use a chemical reaction to produce oxygen. The company's literature says the units have a 10-year shelf life and require no maintenance beyond periodic visual inspections of moisture indicators on the top and bottom covers.

Production at the mine resumed March 15, and it was not immediately clear if ICG miners are now relying on the same type of devices.

At least two miners who escaped the blast said they, too, struggled with their air pack. Arnett Roger Perry told state and federal investigators he could not initially activate his.

"They're not worth a damn," co-worker Harley Joe Ryan, 60, told investigators. "There's going to have to be some design changes for them."

Though state and federal investigators have reached no official conclusions about the cause of the explosion, ICG officials say they believe it was caused by a lightning bolt that ignited a buildup of naturally occurring methane.

The Bush administration is reviewing air packs and other safety equipment used in the nation's mines after previously scrapping similar initiatives started by the Clinton administration.
Copyright C 2006 Deseret News Publishing Co.Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Some will rob you with a six gun...

This is the Woody Guthrie quote used at the top of "Tall Tales."I was researching this today because we weren't sure if it was from a song or not. It is indeed from a song called "Pretty Boy Floyd" about a robber in rural Oklahoma.

If you'll gather 'round me, children
A story I will tell'
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee
A Saturday afternoon
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude
Vulgar words of anger
An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City
It was on a Christmas Day
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen

And as through your life you travel
Yes, as through your life you roam
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Here's a link to our preview in the Boston Globe:

And here's a link to the Fall Arts Preview itself. If you click on "Theater" in the section in the middle of the page (which may take a while to load) you can listen to theater critic Louise Kennedy talk about The Kentucky Cycle and how excited she is to see it: