by Mike Templeton
The Falcon Theatre celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and they remain greater Cincinnati’s only true storefront theater. As we head into 2020, we want to take note of the coming Falcon Theatre project which will feature a production of Coal Town Photograph. Urban Appalachian Community Coalition Core Member Pauletta Hansel’s collection of poetry will come to life on the stage at the Newport Branch of the Campbell Country Public Library on Friday, January 17. Tune into WVXU’s Around Cincinnati on Sunday, January 12 at 7pm when Roberta Schultz will review the book, Coal Town Photograph, and discuss the show.
I had an opportunity to speak with Clint Ibele, Falcon Theatre Takes Flight Director. Clint explained that the Falcon Theatre was founded in 1989 and “has built on its founding mission by providing eclectic, diverse theatre experiences to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky expanding beyond our stage into outreach programs including Falcon Takes Flight, Falcon’s Fourth Wall and HIVoices®.” Reaching into the community through several channels, the Falcon Theatre is taking part in the Campbell County Libraries Signature Series to bring their mission to as many audiences as possible.
The Campbell Country Library Signature Series is an ongoing series of events at various Campbell County Library locations. The Signature Series provides enriching cultural and educational experiences for the community that entertain, inform and enlighten. This production is a dramatic rendering of selections from Pauletta Hansel’s book of poetry. Clint Ibele explained that the performance will be presented in “reader’s theatre style, meaning there are no costumes, sets, props, sound effects and using the lighting that is available.”
Members of the company were inspired to take on the Pauletta’s poetry after her reading at the Falcon Theatre earlier this year. They were intrigued by Pauletta’s poems because they speak to the urban Appalachian experience in a unique and authentic way. They were struck by “the stories she tells that capture the memories of growing up in Appalachia, its changing landscape reflected in her own life as well as that of the people around her,” explains Clint Ibele.
The performance will feature music from Raison D’Etre, a Northern Kentucky folk trio who have been performing together for almost 30 years. The group will be singing songs that follow direct references from some of the poems in Pauletta’s collection. Group member Roberta Schultz said that they will also be singing some original material that will support her poems thematically. They also asked Pauletta for ideas. Roberta Schultz told me that Pauletta “suggested a song called “Our Town” by Iris Dement and several tunes by [UACC Steward] Sherry Cook Stanforth that reference both coming home and leaving home.”
I was curious as to how the music would be woven into the performance and asked Roberta Schultz how this might work. As she explained to me, the music works as a kind of accent to the dramatic readings. Raison D’Etre “will sprinkle song fragments throughout the reading to support specific poems, or to act as interlude music.” In addition to bringing musical accents throughout the performance, Roberta told me that Raison D’Etre will also “perform a few of the songs pre-show to set the mood for the introduction as well as a closing song to underscore the last poem of the piece.”
If you have already read Coal Town Photograph, you know how these poems speak directly to the urban Appalachian experience of leaving home and returning home to find things have forever changed. Pauletta’s poems also capture the mixed feelings so many Appalachians have toward their homes as we look at the changes we see over time, changes that are simply inevitable and changes that are genuinely tragic. These poems do not shy away from the contemporary problems that plague both rural and urban Appalachians, and I suspect this is one of the reasons why the collection of poetry has found its way from the page to the theater.
The Falcon Theatre production of Coal Town Photograph is part of the Campbell County Public Library Signature Series. The show is Friday, January 17, 7:00- 8:30 pm at the Newport Branch. Admission is free but advance reservations are required by calling 859-781-6166, ext. 31, or online at cc-pl.org/signature-series. The production features Falcon Theatre actors Lisa Dirkes, Holly Sauerbrunn, and Tracy Schoster. Music is by Raison D’Etre.
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Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.