The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

Bremmer, Gregg, Piper, & Rose 29

court papers and found that this woman should have never been convicted. It was purely circumstantial evidence, and at that time, presented and judged in the perimeters of a male-predominant society. We believe today that it was a case of domestic violence and that she did it either in self defense or out of many years of abuse. Our second original piece addressed one of the first documented cases of battered-spouse syndrome. Over the years, we have done a number of new Appalachian plays. We’ve done sixty-three world premieres of new plays in our history. Of the world premieres that we’ve done, over more than half of them have been of the region. In addition to Ark of Safety and Ballad of Frankie Silver , we have done A Belonging Place , which was set in Hot Springs, North Carolina, and written by C. Robert Jones. A Belonging Place examines when German POWs were held in camps in Hot Springs during World War I. It’s a love story; one of the local folks falls in love with one of the prisoners. We did a play called Sparks . It’s set on the front porch of a house, and it deals with a lot of cultural issues as well. Do you bring your girlfriend home to live with you? What’s Mama going to say about that? The character of Mama already has a daughter who has an illegitimate child living in the house. The young man brings his girlfriend, figuring that if my sister is here with her illegitimate kid, why can’t I bring my girlfriend home to live with me? Momma doesn’t like this; and sparks fly, and that’s the name of that particular play. We have also done Fire on the Mountain created by Charles Bevel and Dan Wheetman, Earline by Judy Simpson Cook, and Home Place by Phil Hines. Before I arrived back on the scene, I spent twenty-five years in professional theatre from New York to Minneapolis to Montgomery to Chicago and all over. Before then, my start was with a person named Charles Revis, a western North Carolina man, who grew up in a beach community. Charles Revis, a.k.a. Coy Bronson, became the director of Mister Ed, the talking horse show of the 1960s. He came back home in 1971 to his mother’s funeral, and he decided to stay for a while. He introduced me to a world of theatre outside as well as within the region because he also worked for Samuel French as a script editor, and he connected me with that. Charles started a little playhouse called Big Momma’s Mountain Playhouse in an old country store. We did two plays there. We did Saroyan’s Hello Out There! and a little comedy that Charles wrote called Funeral Flowers for the Bride . This connection to Appalachian theatre has followed me everywhere I’ve been. And in 1980, after I graduated

from the University of Virginia, I ended up at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis as a production stage manager. While I was there, I was able to work with two incredible people and share my knowledge of the southern Appalachian area with them because Foxfire was a huge success in the early ‘80s. Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn came to do Foxfire . Jessica Tandy stops by my office one day and says, “I understand you’re from down there where this play is about.” I said, “Yes,” and she said, “Well, I need to learn to clog dance. Can you help me with that?” Since we had a clogging team at Mars Hill when I was there, I said, “Yes, I could.” There was this little place over on the east bank of the river in Mississippi called the Union Bar. The Union Bar was a rock-and-roll bar most of the time, but on Monday nights, it was an old-time bar. There was an old-time band that had a caller and everything. I said, “Well, Jessica, we’ll go one Monday night. You pick the time, and we’ll go to the Union Bar, and I’ll teach you how to clog or buck dance.” The next Monday night Jessica Tandy and I are at the Union Bar with a group of our friends. Hume didn’t want to go; he said he needed to learn his lines. We go to the Union Bar, and we’re square-dancing; and I’m teaching her some steps, and she’s having a good time. I had to stop; I just had to stop during the swinging of partners. I looked at Jessica, and I said, “I’m sorry. I have to be very careful. If anything was to happen to you and we wouldn’t be able to do the show, I don’t know what I would do.” She said “Oh, Bill, don’t be silly. Just teach me how to do this. I really want to learn.” And we planned to do another evening, but she sent me a note, saying, “Bill, I’m sorry, I won’t be able to go on Monday night. Hume thinks I should stay home and learn my lines.” We didn’t get to do it again, but she did use it. In Foxfire , there’s a section where Annie Nations goes back in time and meets her husband. In this scene, Jessica started on stage right, and by the time she got to stage left, she was that sixteen-year-old girl. But in the middle of the transition, she does this buck dance step to make the transition, as she goes from the older Annie to the younger. Mike Steele, who was a critic at the Minneapolis Star Tribune at the time, reviewed it and said it was one of the most transforming moments. I sat there, thinking, “Wow, that did have an effect on this.” Not a “credited names” effect, but that’s good. Somebody once said some of the best things you do, you aren’t getting credit for; but you know that they were there, and I think that this at was one of those cases. The umbilical cord was really never cut for

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