A Possible Summer Writing Group, Boo Killebrew's "Miller, Mississippi," and . . . Field Day

At the end of last week I attempted to create a small writing group that will meet once a week during the summer -- to do NOTHING but write. No workshops, no craft talk, just gathering in the semi-comfortable chairs of the local library for three hours, away from the messy houses and the kids and the talking spouses, and attempting to get words on a page on a regular basis. Everyone was in, excited, ready-to-go . . . and then no one could meet this Wednesday. (Including myself, because I fell ill YET AGAIN (read: another/thesamethatwon'tgoaway stupid sinus infection) and had to ply my system with antibiotics.)

1) I am falling apart.

2) I fear this is a sign of things to come. Both my falling apart (more), and the inability of the writing group to get together.

Still, we'll see. 

On Tuesday I saw an amazing reading of an equally amazing play by Boo Killebrew, this year's winner of the Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers. The acting was incredible, and the play, "Miller, Mississippi," is a clever adoption -- but not direct adaptation -- of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, taking an earnest and unflinching glance at racism in the years during and following the Civil Rights Movement. There were two powerful monologues/moments in particular: one, in the first act, where at least one facet of the mother's 1950s, overtly pre-Betty Friedan behavior is revealed to be motivated by something far more serious and powerful -- though no less warped -- than her gin-nipping, antediluvian upbringing, and in the second act where the Faulknerian "Jason" character of the play, Thomas, excuses systematic incest and abuse with the same reasons white people of privilege give for lazy, less overt (but no less grave) acts of racism. 

I had a moment of doubt about the play at the first hint of incest -- I was thinking, oh no, not in-breeding in the South, not this old trope; but Killebrew did a masterful job of making it new: where in Faulker's novel, the motif of incest indicates a symptom of decline and the result of an insular, dangerously narrow culture, in Killebrew's play the subject becomes metaphor for racism, and highly effectively. The mother's character in the play was a nice mesh of Faulkner's domineering, drunken Father Compson and the simpering, negligent Mother Compson, and the actress who played her, Maryann Plunkett, was fantastic as this complex, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes monstrous character. The John character, too, was an intuitive and empathetic combination of Faulkner's innocent Benji and conflicted, tormented Quentin, and Mark Junek, who played John, really carried the bulk of the play's emotion, taking us from its lightest, funniest moments to its darkest with skill and sensitivity.

Killebrew also forced us -- well, forced me -- to think about the terrible consequences if Caddy hadn't left. I mean, Caddy's fate is sad enough in The Sound and the Fury, but Killebrew's depiction of strangled female ambition and talent, as well as the way less cisgender behavior in both men and women are systematically and completely decimated by the old guard (the old guard represented here by characters both Southern white and Southern African American), was compelling to a degree where you kind of forgot, or didn't see, the ties to Faulkner's characters as clearly, and so the play moves beyond Faulkner-as-metaphor-and-vehicle and into its own significant, insightful delivery of problems that were present in the past, but are still frightfully, tragically existent today.

Fuck, that was a long sentence.

Well, I can't spend much more time on this post today (I'm sure you're disappointed!) because I'm wearing my mom hat for most of it and dutifully attending . . . Field Day. My kids were so wound up before they climbed on that bus this morning. Field Day. Nothing but noise and flailing child limbs for six solid hours. YAY!! (Actually, it's really quite adorable. I really want my kids to stay elementary-school age forever.)

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