The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

Baker, Davidson, Egerton, & Wright 15

of work commenting on life in the mountains from within and without. Work happens in reaction to other work. If there’s no Trail of the Lonesome Pine coming from outside the region, then there’s no Red Fox Second Hangin’ coming from inside the region. Some artists working in the mountains are reacting to what they’re seeing said about the mountains by artists outside the region. You can’t really understand early Appalshop work without understanding what it’s a reaction to. Because these community performance projects are going on, not just in Harlan County, but in Letcher County and Clay County and elsewhere. This is theatre that’s happening in reaction to what people in the community want to talk about or are able to talk about. And the decisions about what’s getting made only very rarely have to do with what other people elsewhere are doing or thinking. I sit back here, and I wonder how much creative energy in Appalachia goes into worrying about what they’re doing in New York, ‘cause they’re sure as hell aren’t not worrying about what we’re doing. If the purpose of art is to figure out what’s actually happening and illuminate it in a way that it affects change or raises attention or gives people a sense of celebration and joy, I think what is most interesting is how does this affect the art that we make about these things? KE: Yeah, “The rich joy found only in what is superb and wild in reality” (Synge viii). To go back to Synge, right? What’s real. DB: Certainly, you referenced Red Fox with Trail of the Lonesome Pine . A large portion of the interest behind Red Fox was a denunciation of Trail of the Lonesome Pine , so . . . that is a reaction.

In terms of your earlier question, I look at it as an industrial model. And what we’re talking about as strip mining as a kind of industrial foreign presence coming in and taking. And there are good parts to these foreign entities collecting because they are so preserved, and they can help stimulate new appreciation even among us. And, I guess, the question is, is the industry producing something that is sustaining for the society? I go back to Lake Jocassee—new power flooded the valley, and they either left or they drowned. And strip mining can sustain [only some specific things], but some of the cultural relationships, however, are wonderfully sustained because of the virtually infinite resource of human creativity. JW: Another thing is this reactionary tendency that we have maybe is common to all of us. For instance, in The Kentucky Cycle , Schenkkan was just blown over and depressed when he was attacked by Gurney Norman and the rest of us. And Schenkkan didn’t understand, nor did realize what he had done. But it started a larger conversation that I think was really important, and people learned a lot from that. KE: Even just having Backtalk from Appalachia (1999) has productive value: being able to use that as a way to help students, for example, figure out how to follow these conversations. Whose voice matters, how do you begin to engage, how do you get heard when you have these kinds of reactions? That’s turned into this amazing resource, and it’s something I’m glad to have as a teacher.

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