I went to the Roxy Regional Theatre tonight, to attend their performance of Spoon River Anthology, which was performed in their OtherSpace theatre. If I had only one sentence with which to give a summation of the show, I think it would be: A tapestry of lives woven together by the the sweet melancholy strains of a violin.
WHOEVER thou art who passest by
Know that my father was gentle,
And my mother was violent,
While I was born the whole of such hostile halves,
Not intermixed and fused,
But each distinct, feebly soldered together.
Some of you saw me as gentle,
Some as violent,
Some as both.
But neither half of me wrought my ruin.
It was the falling asunder of halves,
Never a part of each other,
That left me a lifeless soul.
-Henry Layton, Spoon River Anthology
Spoon River Anthology is a series of monologues which detail the lives of the residents of a small mid-western town’s cemetery. The recollection of their lives are related to the audience by their shades from the afterlife. Spoon River Anthology was based off of a collection of poems written in 1915 by Edgar Lee Masters.
To this generation I would say:
Memorize some bit of verse of truth or beauty.
It may serve a turn in your life.
My husband had nothing to do
With the fall of the bank–he was only cashier.
The wreck was due to the president, Thomas Rhodes,
And his vain, unscrupulous son.
Yet my husband was sent to prison,
And I was left with the children,
To feed and clothe and school them.
And I did it, and sent them forth
Into the world all clean and strong,
And all through the wisdom of Pope, the poet:
“Act well your part, there all the honor lies.”
-Mrs. George Reece, Spoon River Anthology
As always with the OtherSpace, the sets were sparse, and by being so, are not a distraction from the performers and their performances. I want to give my personal thanks the young actors and actresses who were in the show, they put a lot of time and effort into preparing themselves for this production, and it clearly showed during their performances this evening. They are participants in the Roxy’s School of the Arts program, which takes young people and gives them instruction in acting.
I BELONGED to the church,
And to the party of prohibition;
And the villagers thought I died of eating watermelon.
In truth I had cirrhosis of the liver,
For every noon for thirty years,
I slipped behind the prescription partition
In Trainor’s drug store
And poured a generous drink
From the bottle marked “Spiritus frumenti.”
– Deacon Taylor, Spoon River Anthology
I want to give a special commendation to Ted Kitterman who played a violin during the show, he also did the monologue of Fiddler Jack which I am including below. I knew Ted could act and sing. What I did not know, was that he could play a violin with such skill and passion. His playing was the outstanding highlight that I take from this show.
THE earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill–only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle–
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.
– Fiddler Jones, Spoon River Anthology
Spoon River Anthology is out of copyright and so can be viewed freely. If you would like to read the poetry behind the play, I would recommend “The Project Gutenberg Etext of Spoon River Anthology” which can be freely downloaded.
I HAD fiddled all day at the county fair.
But driving home “Butch” Weldy and Jack McGuire,
Who were roaring full, made me fiddle and fiddle
To the song of Susie Skinner, while whipping the horses
Till they ran away. Blind as I was, I tried to get out
As the carriage fell in the ditch,
And was caught in the wheels and killed.
There’s a blind man here with a brow
As big and white as a cloud.
And all we fiddlers, from highest to lowest,
Writers of music and tellers of stories
Sit at his feet,
And hear him sing of the fall of Troy.
– Blind Jack, Spoon River Anthology
This play runs for one more evening. I strongly recommend that anyone who can, go see it, I do not think you will regret doing so.