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Showing posts with label Lost Horizon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lost Horizon. Show all posts

Friday, April 25, 2008

Folk Drama


NET WEST FOLK DRAMA??
Almost one hundred years ago, a remarkable man named Fredrick Koch began teaching drama at the University of North Dakota. Within a decade, his accomplishments were noted by other universities, including the University of North Carolina and he was “invited” to design and launch a Carolina-based theatre program.

Koch pulled up stakes and came to Chapel Hill. The results changed American theatre forever. Koch encouraged his students to write one-act plays based on events drawn from the history of their home towns, their state and regional folklore. The results were remarkable. Over the next decade, his students wrote hundreds of plays on subjects ranging from ghost stories (Elizabeth Lay’s “When Witches Ride”) moonshine and bootlegging (Herbert Heffner’s ‘Don Gast Ye Both”), legends of outlaws (Paul Green’s “The Last of the Lowries,” and Thomas Wolfe’s “The Return of Buck Gavin,”) and the birth of Abraham Lincoln (“Nancy Hanks, Bondswoman.”)So began the Carolina Playmakers, one of America’s greatest theatrical movements. In time, these fledgling saw their plays produced and toured throughout the state. In the process, the Playmakers learned to build portable sets, design costumes and create essential lighting. Eventually, Koch published eleven volumes of folk drama and the folk drama movements spread, eventually taking root in other countries.

Many school children in North Carolina (circa 1920-1940) saw their first plays when the old Playmakers van arrived at their school. (I was in the 5th grade when I saw“Lost Horizon” and went back stage to see the airplane that flew over the town at the play’s conclusion. (It was a piece of cardboard pushed into an electric fan). Since the primary goal of the Playmakers was to promote an interest in theatre, their productions stressed simplicity – plays that could be done with a minimum of resources. Playmaker productions were often done in gyms, cafeterias and classrooms. The benefits were impressive. In addition to seeing a dramatic work, students learned about their region’s history and culture. Assuredly, the children who participated in these events found their lives immeasurably enriched and the memory of the Playmakers’ visit gave them a sense of pride in who they were and were they lived.

Which brings me to this conclusion. I think it is time to do it again. Is it within the realm of the possible that Writers Network West could be instrumental in launching a new “folk play movement”? Are there students in the high school in Hayesville or the Community College at Blue Ridge Community College who are capable of writing a one-act play? Could Writers’ Network West nurture this movement by monitoring progress? Arranging for productions of student-written play, planning a festival?
Comment, please.
Gary Carden

Gary reviews books at www.blogholler.blogspot.com