The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

8 Baker, Davidson, Egerton, & Wright

play, Wilderness Road , ran through several years of Berea College’s Indian Fort Theater, and, incidentally, was actor Ned Beatty’s first acting job the summer before he moved on to the Barter Theatre. There was also a playwright named Kermit Hunter who started his collegiate career here at Emory & Henry and later went on to graduate school. He wrote over forty plays, and some are still being performed. He wrote the Cherokee drama, Unto These Hills , which is a long-running play. It has been revamped and revised through the years. But it is a very historical play, and I really enjoyed it when I saw it the summer before last. I went there thinking I wouldn’t like it. As a general rule, I tend not to like outdoor dramas because of what they are. But anyway, speaking of the Barter Theatre, the organization was very active in community outreach in the 1960s. I remember once in 1960, Ned Beatty and Jim Mitchum came to my high school, J. J. Kelly in Wise, with a traveling troupe from Barter Theatre. They put on two plays, one for the school assembly in the afternoon and the other that evening. Their performance of Rapunzel became the first professional theatre many of us youngsters had ever seen. Later, when I was a senior, I played Demetrius in The Robe , which was also a popular movie of the time though I had yet to see it. In 1974, I became an early member of the Roadside Theater, which was founded by playwright Don Baker at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky. At the beginning, we performed The Jack Tales and Grandfather Tales , collected from our neck of the woods by Richard Chase, whom I later met in California. We brought him back to Letcher County; and he went school to school, telling his stories—and he was quite an eccentric man. Our ensemble toured with these folk tales to various regional communities and schools. We had a week’s run at the American Folklife Festival in 1976 for the bicentennial celebration at the Capitol Mall in Washington. I also worked for Lime Kiln Theater which Don Baker founded in 1984. I did two summers with Don. It “is our mission to give artistic voice to the issues and dreams of people who have been silenced by” the many “forms of oppression” (The Carpetbag). That is a part of the mission of the Carpetbag Theatre in Knoxville. It serves communities by returning their stories to them with honesty, dignity, and concern for the aesthetic of the particular community, helping culturally specific communities to redefine how they organize. Through the work of renowned Black playwright Linda Parris-Bailey, the company works in partnership with other community artists, activists, cultural workers, storytellers, leaders, and others, creating original works

didn’t mind the hike down, but the lady from Philadelphia considered it a real hardship, and it was a hardship for her. (Cornett 17) The story of Eleanor of Pine Mountain is one of many interesting examples I found while researching the long tradition of playwrighting and performance in Appalachia. For my presentation today, I decided to dig a little deeper into the particular story as well as give some history on plays within our region. Early on, Earl Hobson Smith, a 1923 graduate of the University of Kentucky, worked with a group called the Kentucky Playmakers. Not much is yet known about the Playmakers, but Smith wrote many plays of regional and historic flavor. For Eleanor of Pine Mountain , he spent a year in the mountains, collecting what he called “local color.” Eleanor was first presented at the Woodland Auditorium in Lexington, Kentucky, and had the distinction of being the first play written by a UK [University of Kentucky] graduate and presented to the public off-campus. Among the other plays Smith wrote was his adaptation of John Fox, Jr.’s Trail of the Lonesome Pine . I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Smith when I was cast in the Trail in Big Stone Gap in 1968. It’s Virginia’s longest-running outdoor drama. This past summer marked its fifty-first year. Another early influence on early Appalachian playwriting was Professor Frederick Koch—not to be confused with the Kochs we know of today—who came to UNC Chapel Hill in 1918, where he taught the school’s first playwriting courses. He also started the Carolina Playmakers, so the original student plays could be produced. Professor Koch wrote, The Aim of the Carolina Playmakers [. . .] is to build up a genuinely native drama, a fresh expression of the folk-life in North Carolina, drawn from the rich background of local tradition and from the theatre and a new folk-literature. (qtd in Greene[sic]) Among his early notable proteges were Loretta Carol Bailey, Paul Green, and the young Thomas Wolfe, who went on to study playwrighting at Harvard. Green and Bailey he touted as his best students. Miss Bailey wrote and produced Strikes On based on the 1929 Gastonia Textile Strike; and as the southern textile industry denounced it, she must have done a good job. And Paul Green received the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1927 for In Abraham’s Bosom and later became famous for his pioneering work in outdoor drama. His Civil War vigorous new life of the present day. In these simple plays, we hope to contribute something of lasting value in the making of a new folk-

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