The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII
38 Bremmer, Gregg, Piper, & Rose
1930. Audience Member: I have another question for Nick. I found it interesting and it makes me feel good that you accept plays that can be about anything from people within the region; but if you’re from outside the region, the work has to be about the region. Can you give us a couple examples from outsiders coming in and doing something about the region that you’ve workshopped? NP: Oh, The Gnome was good. That was from someone who was from New York but was writing about the northern Appalachians. The Dryad was written by a lady who lives in Missouri, Carol Wright Krause. This was a wonderful story that took place in southern Appalachia, and the setting was during the chestnut blight in the 1930s. It was this weaving of the magical and the very practical life of people living on a farm. What I was most surprised about was that it drew an audience of people passionate about the American chestnuts. I had no idea. I was very surprised. We would have talk-backs, and there’d would be twenty, twenty-five people who would stay to talk about American chestnuts like they were members of their family. They would talk about their experiences with their grandparents’ chestnuts. I think it’s in Meadowview, Virginia, for example, where The American Chestnut Foundation’s research farms are doing tremendous work in trying to rebloom chestnuts. We’ve had experiences with people from outside the region writing about the region that went very badly, particularly in writing about coal mining. And if you get details wrong, people get very upset about that. The idea is, you get as many stories as you can; and over time, this tapestry is woven about different Appalachian experiences that are not just the stereotypical ones. You can have an Appalachian playwright write a story about going to the moon, which we did in The Blue-Sky Boys . But what does that have to do with Appalachia? Well, there’s all sorts of things you can draw from it, but it was something this person had a passion about and wrote about. You get a lot of different stories that way, and it paints a more complete canvas of the experience. RR: And you remember The Blue-Sky Boys came out of Appalachia. When we did the piece about the moon, you start realizing we united with all of the people in this region. Three of whom designed the major components for landing the first man on the moon lived right here. It was fascinating to learn that this region’s history is far deeper and far more influential on the U.S. than we believe. Part of this influence is because of the entrepreneurial nature of the region. You have to be
entrepreneurial simply to survive in this region. The result is it creates really great minds: people who always think outside the box don’t care about the status quo. They don’t care about government; so as a result, they’re much more willing to create, willing to buck those systems, and willing to do things that other people won’t do. That’s in many ways why you get so many people from this region who have gone on to do really amazing things. Audience Member: One other question. Have you thought about or have you published an anthology of your plays? NP: Yeah, that is a very sad story, and we’re still trying. Unfortunately, there’s been a great lack of interest in it. I don’t know why. We still try. I was just thinking about this, Rick, this past week of trying to get the best ten plays that we’ve produced out of this thing and to get those published. We’ve tried it, and it’s hard to get people interested. RR: We worked with some of the big presses, and none of them were interested. Audience Member: Motes Books published a book several years ago. BG: There’s a new press in Asheville called Pisgah Press, and they’re publishing a number of things. We’re looking to them to potentially do both the Perry Deane Young plays with me. Audience Member: There’s a big beautiful new playhouse on the Emory & Henry campus. Do you see that as competition for theatrical dollars spent and in competition of plays being produced that could be detrimental? RR: Of course, it’s competition. Am I worried about that competition? Not really. First of all because we have an association. You’re going to see The Other Side of the Mountain , which we premiered. Cathy Bush is now our playwright in residence, stemming back from that series of plays with her. You can look at anything as competition, and you can look at anything as opportunity. My feeling is this: our job is not to overcome the competition but to allow it to push you to be better. The more competition there is the better you become as an organization and as an institution, and the better your work becomes. Someone once asked me, “What would you do if another theatre settled in Abingdon?” I would celebrate and help them in every way I could. The more competition you get, the better everyone’s work becomes and the more focus you get on the arts.
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