I wanted to send this little news release of sorts to friends, former students, special clients, and those of you who knew I was writing a play this summer. Some of you expressed a desire to see the play but let me tell you it is one exhausting drive down to south Georgia. My drive, roundtrip was almost 900 miles and 15 hours. If I go down in March 2012 to see the play again, I’ll fly into Tallahassee, rent a car, and drive up to little Colquitt, Georgia.
I am glad I went. Everyone down there is so gracious and friendly and the countryside is beautiful … brilliant cotton fields, massive live oaks, and majestic pecan orchards draped in Spanish moss. Being a native Georgian, I was glad to see many parts of the state I’d never seen.
“Solid Ground,” my play, uses a cast of more than 50 people. It’s directed by Phil Funkenbusch of the Abraham Lincoln Museum Theater in Springfield, Illinois. The two-act, two-hour show is about a man’s route to salvation. It deals with the after effects of the Depression, the harsh realities of farming, and the beauty of the land. The stories it’s based on are true. Life was vastly different back then. No daycare for instance. One young couple, poor and struggling to make ends meet, took their infant daughter into the cotton fields and laid her down in a blanket. While they were picking cotton, a rattlesnake bit the child and she died. Lots of true stories like this and beautiful original music truly make the play an event. It has sad moments and funny moments but not one dull moment. Lots of crying by the audience … it’s moving the way they do it. I could get intellectual on you but I’m not that kind of guy. It’s just a good story based on oral histories. I heard from several people that it’s their favorite play of all they’ve staged in 19 years. I was humbled by the cast and crowd’s reaction to me when I was introduced around and after the show.
The sweetest moment for me was right after the play, three little girls about nine years old walked up to me and handed me a promotional brochure about the play. “We want you to have this,” said one little girl with her front teeth missing. Each little girl had signed the brochure for me! It’s something I will keep forever.
Would I write another play? Yes indeed. It’s really something to see ideas and words that bounced in around your head all summer find their way to a stage.
Swamp Gravy, the theater company down there, by the way, began on Broadway in New York City when a citizen from Colquitt met Director Richard Geer (No not that Richard … he spells his name Gere) and the two talked about a way to revitalize Colquitt. That’s where the idea for Swamp Gravy began. Today it is acknowledged by the Georgia General Assembly as “Georgia’s Official Folk Life Play” and its plays have been performed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, at Atlanta’s Seven Stages Theater and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.