This summer, Roadside Theatre’s Mark W. Kidd and I held a 5 day retreat between August 18th and the 22nd, at my father’s old home place on Caney Ridge, Virginia located just about 9 miles from my mother’s hometown of Clinchco. We invited the “Committee for Cultural Advancement Through Theatre (CATT),” an organization that was formed last year to explore the idea of starting a theatre company in Dickenson County to join us. All the ladies; Edna Gulley, LaVerne Mullins, Angela Mullins and Jessica Stallard, were former cast members of “Clinchco, The Day After Payday”; a play that was produced in collaboration with the Ralph Stanley Traditional Mountain Music Center and the town of Clinchco in 2008 and 2010. Mark and I wanted to help CATT transition from a being a committee that only explored the idea of forming a theatre company to actually become a real theatre company. We also thought it would be nice if we could create a small performance piece during the retreat, but so much more was accomplished.
Nothing can stop a group of Appalachian women once they make up their minds to do something! Within those 5 days, they renamed themselves “Story Catchers Theatre,” formed a board of directors and convinced the Mayor of Clintwood, Donald Baker, to support the idea of the town forming fiscal sponsorship with them. On top of all that, they developed a rough draft of their very first, full length, original play using postings from Facebook Pages hosted by people from their region. The play focuses on the rapid changes currently taking place within Dickenson County. PlayBuilders’ Interim Artistic Director, Ronald Gilliam, who just happens to be from near-by Wise, designed a beautiful new logo for them using symbols of their choice; the lighting bug and the mason jar which represents capturing the stories that illuminate our lives.
As a special treat, on the third night, Mark took a draft of the play home with him, promising to return with it the next day. We were not quite sure what he was up to, but the next afternoon, he came back with song writer Kevin Howard and a group of fellow musicians who together call themselves, “Handbarrow.” After they each had a beer (which they brought along with them knowing it was unlikely we would have any in the house) they sang a song for us which Mark and Kevin had just co-written titled, “Morning Mist Still Rises.” I am sure that they have never had a more appreciative audience. The song took our breath away. Not only was it delightful, but the lyrics were drawn directly from a Facebook conversation featured in our play. These were words of our choosing. These talented young men saw what we saw and were able to create something beautiful from it. It was both validating and inspiring. That evening we sang “Morning Mist Still Rises” several times in fellowship. Finally, Mark Kidd and Kevin Howard stunned us even more when they informed us that they were giving us the song to use any way we wished. Even more importantly, they let us know that they wished to continue working with us on this project. You can listen to our singing that night via the youtube video below.
Story Catchers is going to take things slowly at first with plans to meet just once a week to rehearse. In the meanwhile, we will remain in contact with each other through our secret Facebook page, phone calls, and Email. When the play is finished, hopefully in the spring, Mark Kidd will direct it with a member of Story Catchers Theatre by his side. So much was accomplished during our retreat. We all worked ourselves to a point of exhaustion, but it was worth it. PlayBuilders now has a new baby sister named Story Catchers and we look forward to future collaborations in the years to come.
-Terri Madden, Executive Director