Appalachia is a multifaceted host with as many different faces as hollows and hills. Some are beautiful, kind, and accepting. Some are filled with hate, and some are caught in between, unsure of where they stand until the line is drawn for them. Far too often, the unique rhythms of this place are lost in the stereotypes by which it is often characterized. “This is My Heart for You,” the latest work of acclaimed regional author Silas House, refuses this trap, embracing some of the most difficult and complex topics facing modern Appalachia. In the writer’s own words the play is “a prayer for things to get better, for us all to have more understanding and compassion.”
The play’s world premier is scheduled for February 22 at Berea’s Jelkyl Drama center. There is little apprehension among the cast and crew. Under the insightful direction of Berea’s own Adanma Onyedike Barton, and with the work of Berea’s finest student actors, “This is My Heart for You” has become a vibrant and moving production that is not only ready, but longing to be seen. Actor Jason Fontenot, from Fort Worth, Texas, says, “I’m not nervous at all. We’ve got too good of a program.”
The play is not shy with respect to subject matter. Before the backdrop of small town Appalachia, issues of homophobia, racism, and discrimination play out for all to see. Actress Megan Rebecckiah Jones from Manchester, Kentucky, says, “This has been a hard show to do because it’s very emotional. It’s so current that it’s uncomfortable.” Inspiring discomfort is in part what this play is about. It is that discomfort that motivates the play’s characters as well as the audience members to confront the injustices portrayed.
For lead actor Will Bain from Ider, Alabama, the role is his first, and it is also personal. Referring to his character Jesse, Bain says, “I really connect to him. There’s a big message here.” And Bain does a fantastic job in conveying that message. His performance shines among the brightest in the play.
Although Berea College is proud to host the world premiere of this moving piece, there can be no doubt that this play is going big places. The message Bain speaks of is at once uniquely Appalachian and universally applicable. It is as if “This is My Heart for You” has written the caption to our most modern picture of Appalachia. If you grew up here and are already familiar with the themes addressed, then come out and spend some time with the characters you know best. If not, come out anyway. If there is any message to be taken home from the show, it is that there is room for everyone at this table.
Joined by Adanma Barton, Silas talks about his new play “This Is My Heart for You” with WTVQ-TV.