The following plays by Tom DeTitta are described below:
The Reach of Song from Southern Appalachian Mountains, Streets of Gold from Western Pennsylvania Coal Country, Transcendence from Plains, GA, And Grace Will Lead Me Home: The American POW Drama from Andersonville Civil War Stockade, Darkness Lifting from Fiji, Ghana, and Belfast, Stalinka from Bulgaria, Searching for Innocence: Phnom Penn 1996 from Cambodia, Prayer of America from Monongah, West Virginia, Jimmy and Billy from Plains, GA, Following Our Fannie from The Rylander Theater, Americus, GA, How to Beat Diabetes from Lambasa, Fiji, and Home Again from The Oregon Trail.
For each play: e-mail Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org for Script Information.
The Reach Of Song
An epic and authentic celebration of mountain culture as seen through the life and works of native poet Byron Herbert Reece. Uniquely staged with professional actors working beside the people who have lived the story, the show features some of the best musicians and singers in the region performing Shaped-Note Singing, Bluegrass, and other native music. The ghost narration of the former poet laureate of Georgia provides a depth and perspective to the narrative. The play also tracks the dramatic social change that, since World War Two, has threatened this culture’s very existence. Named the State’s Official Historic Drama by the Georgia Legislature.
Locations: Southern Appalachain Mountains
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Streets Of Gold
A tale of American turn-of-the-century immigration whose performance attracted the likes of Joe Paterno and Mario Cuomo to speak on its behalf. This epic drama crosses the ocean and back to the many homelands of the region’s rich ethnic population. In doing so, it makes sense of the disconnect that occurred when their ancestors’ desire to be American erased the traditions and beliefs that, for centuries before, had guided their people. The play was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission and the Eberly Foundation.
Locations: Western Pennsylvania Coal Country
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A play about the presidency of Jimmy Carter which was written with the President and his wife Rosalynn and researched through years of living in the land that created him. Important to understanding the story was understanding the region’s Civil Rights struggle. President Carter wrote in his book Living Faith “As President I tried to make human rights a core value of my administration. This emphasis was derived from my experience growing up in the South and from the guilt I shared with others over the way we deprived our black neighbors of their human rights.” Carter’s Press Secretary Jody Powell said about the script, “I laughed, I cried, I thought it was a great play.”
Locations: Plains, GA
And Grace Will Lead Me Home: The American POW Drama
Theater done in a whole new way. Based on the very first story of prisoners of war—the Andersonville Civil War Stockade—the play features the participation of two ex-POWs who are chosen anew for each production. Their narratives are interwoven seamlessly into the performance through the use of rotating sets and rear screen projections. Each former POW relates his past struggles to the struggles of the Andersonville characters. Poignant slave spirituals of the Civil War period provide yet another layer to the themes of freedom and captivity. Commissioned by the Mix Foundation and the City of Americus, of the production was recognized through an eight-thousand dollar playwright’s fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts through the North Carolina Arts Council.
Locations: Andersonville Civil War Stockade
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In Ghana, a “Second wife” tried to overcome what she believed to be demons possessing her. In Northern Ireland, a grandmother struggled with the religious divide in her country. Generations of poverty and violence attempt to overwhelm a single mother in Inner City Baltimore. Commissioned by Habitat for Humanity for its 25th Anniversary Celebration, the play puts a face on poverty through the stories of five Habitat homeowners trying to overcome the circumstances of their lives. “Darkness Lifting” gave the organization’s staff, volunteers, and donors a direct view of how their work affected people throughout the world.
Locations: Ghana, Fiji, Belfast
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Stalinka is the Auntie who lives with the family and is somehow related, but nobody really knows how. Seemingly always on the brink of death, she still manages to eat everything in the house while simply refusing to die. Through the irrational demands and mandates she scribbles on scraps of paper and hands to whomever is closest to her, she makes everyone’s life absurd. As such, she is a metaphor both for the lingering ex-Communist Oligarchy who are supposed to be dead, but yet who have amassed all the country’s resources and limited its growth, as well as the decrepit old history that continues to scribble mandates that nobody really understands, but follow nonetheless. Created with the National Academy of Film and Theater in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Searching For Innocence: Phnom Penn 1996
Written around the story of Cambodian Poet Chath Pier Sath, who, as a young boy, had been taken from his parents and suffered in the idealized agrarian community imagined by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Years later, Mr. Pier Sath and his fellow countrymen again found themselves transformed by good intentions after the United Nations’ intervention in Cambodia. The well paid masses of foreign non-government workers caused such inflationary pressure that Cambodians could no longer afford to live in their country. Some resorted to selling their own daughters for prostitution—a market suddenly made available by the influx of foreigners. Mr. Pier Sath appears in the play as himself.
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Prayer Of America
The hope and optimism of the turn-of-the-century American immigrant story is turned on its head when hundreds of them are killed through the country’s worst coal mining disaster. Near the site in Monongah, West Virginia, the citizens of a small town in Italy erected a statue of the wives—children clinging to their sides—who were left alone in a foreign land where they didn’t speak the language and were removed from their extended families and their customs. Without a husband to provide for them or a father to help care for the children, they somehow found a way to survive. This play is their story. Commissioned through a $25,000 grant by the State of West Virginia Department of Community Affairs.
Locations: Monongah, West Virginia
Jimmy And Billy (Upcoming)
The story of Jimmy Carter and his brother Billy that played out on a world stage and had levels of meaning few people understood. To the world, Billy Carter was the beer drinking country bumpkin who seemed the opposite of his brother. But according to his mother, Billy may have been her smartest child. He read as many as two to three books a week. His recreational use of alcohol took a dark turn during the four years his brother was in office, as did the persona that initially softened Jimmy’s sanctimonious demeanor. The reasons for the changes in Billy Carter and the complicated relationship between him and President Carter are the basis for this play.
Locations: Plains, GA
Following Our Fannie
A raucous romp through the vaudevillian history of the newly renovated Rylander Theater, this play included a mix of local and professional actors along with the modern-day equivalent of vaudevillians—circus performers. Commissioned by the Mix Foundation to be an ongoing celebration of the theater’s colorful history, the melodramatic through line became a vehicle for the bizarre, the comic, and the unbelievable, as the audience followed the main character, “Fannie,” along her perilous voyage. Reaching out to the community, circus performers from the play held a series of free workshops to teach everything from magic tricks to swallowing fire.
Locations: The Rylander Theater, Americus, GA
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How To Beat Diabetes
Street theater performances at the diabetes clinic in Lambasa, Fiji, dramatizing the lifestyle changes required to overcome type 2 diabetes. Performed by native Fijians from The University of Suva’s Lambasa campus, the plays showed dramatically what had previously been presented in the information brochures that were only sometimes read. In a controlled experiment where patients’ blood sugar levels were monitored, exposure to the play was shown to lower the blood-sugar of those who had seen it. The performance archetypes can be duplicated anywhere in the world. Commissioned by the International Diabetes Foundation.
Locations: Lambasa, Fiji
A mutually sympathetic telling of the Oregon Trail story between Pioneers and Native Americans, told in the very place where that narrative reached its final and deadly conclusion. The play is based on the infamous 1847 Whitman Massacre by the Cayuse Indians in Western Oregon. It was intended that there would be a script committee from the Indian reservation and one composed of descendants of the pioneers. When the effort was made to include the Cayuse, the response from the tribe was “Not only will we not participate in creating the script, but if you are successful with your endeavor, we will burn down the sets for the play.” Through a long series of meetings, the play ended up including members of the Cayuse tribe as actors. The music was a Native American score.
Locations: The Oregon Trail
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