Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man, an award-winning outdoor eco-cultural theater, music and meal experience will be presented at the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center and the Pinnacles over Earth Day weekend, April 21 to 24, 2022.
Ezell is an environmental, cultural and spiritual parable derived from living in the foothills of Appalachia, one man among many seeking to make sense of the time, place and condition in which we live. In the story, Ezell’s choices, traumas, ancestors and more intersect with themes of domination and resilience as he seeks to take advantage of an anticipated fracking boom and the opportunity to reconnect with the people and land of his raising.
The Berea production of Ezell is supported by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center and the Forestry Outreach Center at Berea College.
“We are thrilled to have Ezell in Berea this spring, and it is particularly poignant that it is happening as our communities begin to emerge out of the pandemic that has kept most of us isolated over the past several years, said Chris Green, director of the Berea College Loyal Jones Appalachian Center. “This performance is far from a typical play. During Ezell, audience members are treated to an entire experience. From the moment someone arrives at the Forestry Outreach Center, they become part of the experience, which invokes the resilience, love and lessons of not only our ancestors, but of generations to come.”
The performance is surrounded by an immersive experience, calling to the audience’s collective desire for connection and belonging.
Additional support for this performance was provided by Kentucky Artist Rescue grant funds and an Al Smith Fellowship Award granted to Bob Martin for artistic excellence from the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, which is supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
At the beginning of the performance, the audience is welcomed and oriented into the experience by a journey guide. During the second act, participants are led by a guide to the performance site, located in a wooded area and immersed in music.
The third act allows the audience to witness Ezell through a performance at the base of Berea’s Pinnacles.
Following the third act, guides will engage audience members while guiding them to the performance site of the final act.
Act five is a celebration of the event, including live music and a farm-fresh, family-style meal inspired by the story and place of Ezell.
The story of Ezell was inspired by actual events in Berea’s neighboring rural communities as well as the ongoing efforts of people throughout Appalachia and worldwide to imagine a future beyond fossil fuels.
Clear Creek Creative’s professional artistic ensemble for Ezell includes a collaboration of theater, music, visual and design artists from Kentucky and New Orleans, Louisiana. In Berea, they will be accompanied by the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble and supported by students from this semester’s Community Story Activism course co-taught by Green and Bob Martin, the lead artist and performer of Ezell.
Ezell also serves as a homecoming and reunion of sorts. Cory Shenk, a 2015 Berea graduate, shapes the event’s music and soundscape. He uses everyday items to create an atmosphere that hauntingly transforms songs like Jean Ritchie’s “Now is the Cool of the Day.”
Sam Gleaves, a 2014 Berea graduate, directs the Berea college Bluegrass Ensemble.
Later this spring and summer, Ezell will tour to Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts with an award from the National Theater Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts as well as support from the National Performance Network and the Network of Ensemble Theaters.
Images, tickets and further information about the development of Ezell are available at clearcreekcreative.net/ezell.
Performances will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 21 to 23 at 5 p.m., and Sunday, April 24 at 1 p.m. Tickets are by donation, and all proceeds will benefit the work of Grow Appalachia, an organization committed to creating healthy, resilient and economically viable food systems in Appalachia.