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Digging up secrets

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
Summit Daily/Reid Williams
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BRECKENRIDGE – This weekend, locals will unearth secrets taken by small-town residents to their grave.Father Dyer Fine Arts Council presents “Spoon River Anthology,” a two-act play based on the poetry of Edgar Lee Masters.Masters published his poetry in 1914, then Charles Aidman adapted Masters’ work into 74 monologues, which premiered at the Booth Theatre in New York. Aidman’s production included a dozen folk songs for guitar and two voices, which Rod Allen and Cathy Bowen perform this weekend.David Blake, Scoop Daniel, Monica McElyea, Robin Newton, Sandra Stephens and Sue Whitcomb embody 74 characters throughout the play. Most of the time, the presentation takes place with monologue or dialogue, while the other actors sit with their backs to the audience.

The characters bring a unique perspective to the play – they all talk about their lives after they have died; they are all buried in the Spoon River Cemetery in Lewiston, Ill.; Masters changed only the names.”I’m a Midwesterner, and the cemetery could be my home cemetery with the secrets of the generations of the past – who did what with whom,” said Stephens, who directs the production.The script especially hits home for Bob Boyd, who is helping with the production. Boyd’s dad is from Lewiston, where Boyd spent summers. His parents are buried in the cemetery “Spoon River Anthology” is based upon, and family rumors maintain that Masters talks about Boyd’s great grandfather.The secrets in Masters’ work range from suicide and murder to what it was like being the town atheist or how untimely death shattered dreams of finishing a flying machine.

Newton especially stands out in the production. One of the many characters he plays is a man who hungered for meaning in his life, though he shrank from love, sorrow and ambition. He admits that while life with meaning may lead to madness, life without meaning leads to a restlessness and vague desire – like a boat captain longing for the ocean yet afraid to set sail.Another character maintains “sex is the curse of life,” because having eight children prevented her from writing.”The play is a challenge for the six actors in that each time one makes an entrance, he or she is a different character,” Stephens said. “It’s a great piece for developing character. You have no one to lean on but yourself. It demands a lot of each actor – not just that you’re alone, but each time you come on you’re someone else.”

Theater on the lawnThe one hour and 45 minute production takes place on the lawn of the Barney Ford historical house in Breckenridge. Green grass and clovers provide a natural stage, while cottonwood and spruce trees furnish the backdrop.The museum honors Ford, a prominent black Coloradan who lived in the home in 1882 for eight years. Ford was born a Virginia slave in 1822 and later became a Denver businessman, civic leader, black rights advocate and mine and restaurant owner. Craig hopes to expand the use of the lawn for private and public events, the first of which is “Spoon River Anthology.”

Guests may bring picnic dinners and lawn chairs. In case of rain, the production will take place at Father Dyer United Methodist Church.Proceeds from the performances benefit the outreach programs of the church and the Saddle Back Society. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and may be purchased by calling (970) 453-2250.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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