The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

14 Baker, Davidson, Egerton, & Wright

look at. And I’ll say the same thing about Night Comes to the Cumberlands . It was a high-water mark for the beginning— the seeds of Appalachian Studies to start. It gave us something to look at and think about and discuss and say, “Is this true or not?” If he hadn’t done that, I don’t think Appalachian Studies would be where it is today. KE: Oh, I was just going to say even in some of the newest Appalachian theatre—I’m thinking of Silas House’s newest play—where one of the things he is collecting and, sort of, lifting up is the ephemera of online message boards. And he takes this local commentary about these very controversial events happening in eastern Kentucky, about people’s perception of homosexuality; and he takes these things verbatim, and they are projected on the floor of the stage at various points. So again, there’s the same sort of collecting these things which might disappear and lifting them up in the context of the theatre, as if to say, “We need to take responsibility for this,” or “We need to engage with this kind of discussion.” Some of this language is not artistically interesting; it’s abusive and dangerous. But he looks at it to say, “Okay, somebody wrote [this]—hold folks responsible for this language and for what this language does.” And he uses theatre as a way to do that. I’m really interested in those connections over time, whether it’s the folklorist’s collection piece or the power of theatre to take these snippets of cultural production and cultural dialogue and say, “Whoa, wait a minute, we should look at this more. We should look at this differently.” And that I think is really valuable. The theatre can do that in a very public way. DD: I’d offer, too, related ideas regarding the strength of that cross-pollination. Bithynia was happy because the Romans built really nice roads and gave them sanitation. Second, I remember a few years ago in Belize they opened—I believe it was Belize, forgive me if I am wrong—they opened a zoo. They had gone in to make a film, a documentary, I believe, of animals in that Central American rainforest. And then they were going to release the animals, but a couple of people decided, “Let’s keep the animals, because they are going to be destroyed. Let’s keep them and establish a zoo.” And one local man, who had spent his life talking about these various creatures from both Mayan and Belizean mythology, was brought to the zoo; and he was excited to be able tell the story of the jaguar. When he saw the jaguar in the enclosure, he burst into tears, and the people who owned the zoo asked why he burst into tears, and he said, “This is the first time I’ve actually ever seen a

jaguar.” This kind of collection can have great benefits as well. DB: There was a term that was used a lot several years ago called “cultural strip mining,” and I wonder if you all would address how—certainly, I would say your Broadway play or your New York play is an example of cultural strip mining—how does that affect what you were talking about, Jack, in terms of Richard Chase, Lomax— people that use Appalachia for themselves while helping Appalachia? KE: I think that “strip mining” implies this, sort of, removal and destruction as opposed to come in and use this—and what are you leaving behind? And if part of what you’re making space for is creative response that says, “No, wait a minute, let us tell our version of the story,” then we do have the potential there for dialogue and growth. I actually think if I look at The Burnt Part Boys as a response to 9/11, I’m trying to redeem that play in some ways, saying, “Well, okay, let’s look at it through what may be, in fact, a more realistic view of this response.” Although at the time, I was like, “Well, if you want to make a musicalization of Stand by Me , why don’t you just do that?” But this was also coming up at the same time that there was a musical adaptation coming out of Homer Hickam’s The Rocket Boys (1998), and that was also like the conflict between Angels in America and The Kentucky Cycle in New York. If somebody is putting some big resources behind an adaptation of The Rocket Boys, The Burnt Part Boys is not going to work, right? I mean there’s not room for two of those in the same cycle of cultural production. There’s not an audience for both of those things. Part of it is who gets there first and who has the bigger marquee. You know, how many movie stars can we put in this production? But I think that as long as these outsider views don’t eliminate the possibility for people telling their own stories, then there is a place for them. And sometimes I think they create a hunger and a vacuum for people to tell their own stories, as critical as they might be. JW: Robert Gipe? RG: I think it’s a good thing that The Burnt Part Boys was produced as a stand-in for actually talking about 9/11 because it integrates what’s going on in the coal fields with what’s going on in New York. These are seen as links, at least. That’s one thing. The production of the Trail of the Lonesome Pine is not just what it did for Big Stone Gap, but it’s also part of a continuum

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