Clarksville, TN – As a child growing up in Arkansas, Darren Michael often heard stories about the town of Smackover. Thanks to the oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s, thousands flocked to the southern town in search of fortune.
Predictably, however, when the oil wells ran dry, those residents left as quickly as they came – and the city atrophied.
Now an associate professor of theatre at Austin Peay State University, Michael was inspired to commit those old stories of corruption and greed to print in the form of a full-length play, titled “Scarecrows Will Never See the Sunset.”
The play has been successful regionally, with strong production runs in both Nashville, TN and Lexington, KY, but a recent agreement with Steele Springs Stage Rights will ensure his drama reaches a much wider audience.
“Steele Springs is one of the up-and-coming play publishing companies, and they approached me last year and wanted to see some of my material,” Michael said. “I sent out a bunch of things I’d been working on, and they picked ‘Scarecrows’ out quickly. Last fall, I worked with an editor and we got (the manuscript) laid out before it was officially published on March 1st.”
“Scarecrows” is told through the eyes of Bo Legend, a man trying to discern how he came to such a low point in his life. Raised as a farmer and now forced into the oil business as the boom hits Smackover, Legend has come home to face what’s left of his family — his father and brother who suspect him of unspeakable things and the daughter he abandoned just days after her birth.
“The seed of (‘Scarecrows’) started with my family,” Michael said. “I took a huge amount of dramatic license, but I set in at a time period my family knew – they came to Arkansas during the oil boom of the 20s and 30s.
“There are these burnt out oil pits back there, and when I was a kid, it smelled like oil; there were these nasty and burnt-out areas. I wanted to write something about that era and about a guy who can’t deal with all the massive changes going on around him.”
In her 2014 review of “Scarecrows,” Amy Stumpfl of The Tennessean said “Michael…shows great promise as a playwright, crafting full-blooded characters and often lyrical dialogue.” Martin Brady of the Nashville Scene said “(‘Scarecrows’) plays out like the big, lusty Southern Gothic drama it consciously aspires to be, with its Tennessee Williams-like dramatis personae and the biblically inspired undertones of a John Steinbeck novel.”
His short works, including “Willie Nelson Ain’t Dead, “Feathers”,” “Lily Builds a Spaceship” and “Voice Activated,” have also been featured at Roxy Regional Theatre in Clarksville and at Playhouse Nashville’s Ten Minute Playhouse events. He is currently the President of the Tennessee Theatre Association and a member of the Dramatists Guild.
For licensing information on “Scarecrows Will Never See the Sunset,” visit Steele Spring Stage Rights at www.stagerights.com
For more information on Darren Michael, visit www.darrenvanmichael.com
APSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance is online at www.apsu.edu/theatre-dance, or call 931.221.6767.