“This Is My Heart For You,” a play by Kentucky author Silas House, examines the complexities of a small Appalachian town that must look at its own heart when a local incident exposing perceived inequality becomes national news. Loosely based on a true event, the avant-garde play is about two young men who are thrown out of a community-run swimming pool after accusations of “improper behavior.” The town is divided on whether the pool manager is a hero or a bigot. The play shines a light on the bigger issues of equality, hypocrisy and compassion in America today.
House, interim director of Berea College’s Appalachian center, says when he first set out to write the play he simply wanted to create something about contemporary Appalachia, and first thought the play would be about the complexities of coal-mining in the region.
“But last summer there were several incidents about equality—alleged hate crimes, discrimination, etc.–in the area, and the theme just presented itself,” House says. “The issue of fairness and equality speaks to everything about who we are as a people. Appalachia has always served as a microcosm for America, so I think of this not so much as a regional story as a national—or even global—one.”
House says the play also explores issues of belief and faith, two themes that have been present in all his work. “My main goal is to look at religion, belief and faith in all their complications and never to ridicule or simplify them,” he says.
House is best known for his novels, which have become national bestsellers and garnered several major prizes, but two plays, “The Hurting Part” (2005) and “Long Time Traveling” (2009) have previously been produced.
“This is an amazing opportunity for our students and for our program to work with a contemporary writer such as Silas,” says Adanma Barton, who serves as an assistant professor of theatre at Berea. “What is even more exciting is that we have him right here on campus so we can engage him in our rehearsals.” Barton adds that the play includes music, dancing and multimedia elements. The local group, Sugar Tree, will provide music for the premiere.
“This fantastic world premiere will make audiences laugh, cry and sing out loud,” Barton says. “Most importantly, this play reinvigorates the meaning of the word ‘community’.” Barton is planning talk-backs with the cast, director and author after each performance.
Assisting Barton in bringing this production to life are Shan R. Ayers, professor of theatre, who will complete the scenic and lighting elements, and Mary Ann Shupe, the Berea College theatre’s resident costume designer. Performances are scheduled for February 22-25 at 8 p.m. and February 26 at 2 p.m.. All performances are in the Jelkyl Drama Center on the Berea College campus. For reservations, please call the Theatre Laboratory Box Office at 859-985-3300.
A signing performance for the hearing impaired will be given during the matinee on Sunday, February 26.
The cast list includes:
Jason Fontenot, a sophomore English/philosophy double major from Ft. Worth, Texas
Lauren Ballou, a freshman biology/theatre double major from Sardinia, Ohio
Candace Mullins, a junior business marketing major from Danville, Ky.
Ryan Cardwel, a freshman theatre major from Sevierville, Tenn.
Brianna Perry, a junior theatre/communications double major from Wallingford, Ky.
Megan Jones, a junior English/theatre double major from Manchester, Ky.
Victoria Brown, a freshman theatre major from Jackson, Ohio
Jimmy Horn, a sophomore theatre major from Cypress, Texas
David Bellnier, a senior theatre major from Knoxville, Tenn.
Corey Lewis, a communications/African and African American studies double major from Birmingham, Ala.
David Tennal, a junior theatre major from Little Rock, Ark.
Elizabeth Clark, a sophomore theatre major from Carrollton, Ky.
Terry Slaughter, a sophomore theatre major from Richmond, Va.
Will Bain, a junior theatre major from Ider, Ala.