Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good Company Theatre Brings Daughters of the Appalachians to New Heights

by Linda Goodman
November and December have been incredibly busy months for me, but I just had to close out 2013 with my final thoughts on Good Company Theater’s (Granby, CT) production of my play Daughters of the Appalachians.
            Three theaters performed the show in 2013. The Lamplighters Theatre in La Mesa,CA and The Village Players in Somers, CT did staged readings of the show, both playing to full houses and standing ovations. I was unable to attend either of these shows, but enjoyed reading the press releases and reviews, and hearing about the overwhelming audience reactions.
            Good Company Theatre, however, did a full production of the show and ran it for six nights (November 1-10). I was able to attend all of them. My good friends Nikki Currie-Huggard and Resa Ferreira co-directed the show. Both of them are talented and accomplished writers, storytellers, actors, and directors, so I knew the show was in good hands. They are the very definition of artistic integrity. Artist and storyteller Steve Ferreira painted an amazing mountain back-drop for the show. Rik Huggard provided excellent sound, in spite of a few obstacles that popped up along the way.
            Laura Mazza-Dixon wrote an enticing press release that drew people to the show in droves. All of the shows drew full houses except for the first show, which was six seats shy of being full. All six received standing ovations. The Appalachian music (sometimes rousing, sometimes haunting) chosen for the show was arranged and played by Laura on the guitar and Julie Senter on the fiddle.
            Nikki and Resa did a remarkable job casting the show:
            Nannie Brown played the pivotal role of 94 year old matriarch Marthie Potter to perfection, weaving a complex tapestry of  honor, stubbornness, superstition, and loyalty into a collage of family sorrows, fears, and triumphs. Nannie was so real as Marthie that I felt as though I was in the presence of my great aunt, on whom the character is based.
            Sixteen year old Jessica Manion played Jessie, a young girl who strikes a deal with a conjur man, only to learn that she needs to be more careful with her wishes. I loved the innocence and purity that Jessica brought to the role. She made Jessie (who, in the wrong hands, can seem conniving) sympathetic and the audience cared for her.
            Tamara Torres McGovern was amazing as Harlene. I wrote this story about a woman and her dog and have performed it, and seen others perform it, many times. So how did Tamara manage for make me cry for six nights in a row, even though I knew how the story ended?  Through sheer talent – her acting skills are THAT good!
            Peggy Shaw was a hoot as Boojie, a woman who meets a star-crossed lover who changes her life. I love the way she injected this role with joy and freedom, to the delight of her captive audience. By the way, Boojie’s use of the term “shot my wad” does not refer to a sexual act; it figuratively refers to a wad of chewing tobacco and is synonymous with “blew my top.”
            Resa Ferriera, as always, OWNED the stage as the vengeful Nellveda Hawkins. Portraying Nellveda as both blatantly evil and eerily hypnotic, Resa sent chills down my spine. The audience was electrified.
            Kimberly McCord, on stage as an actor for the first time, introduced the audience to Sarah Jane with the expertise of one with far more experience, making the character real by portraying both the doubts that her mother imposed upon her and the confidence her father planted in her heart. Kimberly went deeper into the character with each performance. Her evolution was remarkable.
            I cried when the show’s run ended on November 10. I did not want to leave my ladies. Indeed, they felt real to me, and I still miss them. But I do have souvenirs of the show I will keep always. I even have a poem written by Boojie (Peggy Shaw) herself:
Linda’s Play
Subtitle: Nikki and Resa Made Us Do It
They said it would be easy to get up on the stages
And tell a little story that lasted for eight pages.
Well, it wasn’t easy, I must say,
Until we realized one day
That this was such a lovely play.
We could do it for ages and ages.
Well, there are five verses after that….
Happy New Year to one and all!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Elisa Pearmain's Forgiveness CD a True Gift

CD Review 

Forgiveness: Telling Our Stories in New Ways

A two CD program of stories and reflections for healing your past and living peacefully in the present. $22.50 (includes shipping and handling) from http://www.wisdomtales.com/forgiveness.html 

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

            I took my first Elisa Pearmain storytelling workshop, sponsored by the Connecticut Storytelling Center, in 1990. At that time, she was already being hailed as one of the wise women of storytelling. This two CD set further cements that reputation.

            Pearmain says that her favorite definition of forgiveness is this: giving up all hope for a better past. “Forgiveness is first and foremost a form of self-healing….Research now confirms that forgiveness can reduce anxiety and depression and improve physical health,” she states on her CD insert. These are not words spoken by an amateur. Pearmain, in addition to being a respected storyteller, is a seasoned Psychotherapist with a private practice in Concord, Massachusetts.

            The sixteen stories on this CD come from various cultures around the world, and each illustrates a facet of forgiveness. Each story is followed by a reflection or insight. Some are also followed by exercises and meditations to help the listener internalize the wisdom taught by the tale. Several of the stories are personal stories, two from Pearmain’s own life. 

            My favorite story from this collection is Prince Dhigavu, a Buddhist tale about a prince who seeks revenge against the murderer of his parents, only to realize that his vengeance will beget only more vengeance in an unending cycle that can be stopped only by surrendering his hate to the love he has for his people.

            I also appreciated hearing Her Story in Motion, Pearmain’s personal story of her first real love, which began with joy and hope, only to deteriorate into an abusive relationship. Dance theater became her healing salve, helping her to banish the shame she harbored through sharing her pain. Positive audience reactions affirmed the value of her sharing her story. Her creativity allowed her to heal herself. “Is there a personal story you would like to share?” she asks at the story’s conclusion. She encourages those whose memories cause flashbacks to seek the help of a therapist.

            Pearmain makes therapy an art form as she tells each tale with a sensitivity that reveals rare insight into the frailty of the human condition and the power of forgiveness. She has harnessed that power as a gift for story lovers everywhere, but especially for those desiring to let go of the past and live a more peaceful and compassionate life. I will listen to these stories again and again for the wisdom, the hope, and the healing that they offer. This is an important work that stands on its own for the caliber of its stories and Pearmain’s telling; but it also goes beyond the traditional story realm to that healing place where magic can truly happen. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Father and Sons

(Inspired by Matthew 21:28-32)

©Linda Goodman, November 2013

My father was sixty-five years old when his mother passed away in 1970. She left to him the heavy chifferobe (a combination armoire/chest of drawers) that his father had made by hand.

Daddy was glad to be offered this piece, as he loved his father and admired his handiwork. The piece was much too heavy and bulky, however, for my father to move by himself. Besides that, my grandmother’s cabin was 10 hours away in Wise, Virginia, and Daddy did not drive.

He did have two sons, though, and each of them had a pickup truck. He called Allen, his younger son, and asked him for his help. “My sister Nell is going to be at Mama’s house two weeks from Saturday, Daddy explained. “ That’s the only day that someone will be there to let me in. Will you take me to get that chifferobe and help me bring it back?”

“Sorry, Pop,” Allen answered. “The World series begins that day. The Baltimore Orioles are playing the Cincinnati Reds. You know I can’t miss that game.” The Baltimore Orioles were his favorite team.

Daddy understood. He was a big fan of the Orioles, too. So he said good bye to Allen and called his oldest son, Lee, whom he asked the same question. “Sure, Pop,” Lee answered without hesitation.  “I’ll be glad to go with you and bring that chifferobe back.”

I am sure that Lee meant well, but he was the happy-go-lucky type who made promises easily, but did not keep track of them. Within a week he forgot all about Daddy and the chifferobe and, excited about the World Series, he decided to have a World Series hotdog cookout party. He invited all his friends and neighbors. He also invited Allen.

“Say What!” Allen exclaimed. “Didn’t you tell Daddy that you would take him to pick up that Chifferobe in Wise that Saturday?”

“Shucks! I forgot all about that.” Lee reflected. “Oh, well, I’m sure Daddy will understand. He knows that the Baltimore Orioles are my favorite team. I’ll call him right now.”

“Never mind, “Allen told him. “I’ll call Daddy and tell him. I need to talk to him any way.”

On Saturday, October 15, at 4:00 a.m., my Daddy stood on the front porch of his apartment building waiting for his son to pick him up and drive him to Wise. As the truck pulled up to the curb, Daddy was surprised to see Allen, not Lee, behind the wheel.

“What are you doing here, Allen?” Daddy asked. “I thought you were going to watch the World series.”

“Yep, I was, Pop,” Allen grinned. “But then I decided that I’ve seen plenty of Orioles games.  I’ve never had my father to myself for an entire day before, though.  How could I pass that up?”

Daddy laughed and slapped Allen on the back as he got into the truck.

Daddy talked about that trip until the day he died in August 1987. Memories of that trip brought a smile to his face whenever he thought of them. I am pretty sure that they made Allen smile, too.
          Years after Daddy was gone, Lee told me that he would give anything to have that day back. Unlike Allen, he would never have his father to himself for an entire day.