GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.
Why Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop… by Robin Byrd
Lulla Bell Jury has lost her momma; all she has left is the fiddle her mother gave her and the beauty and pain of life in the Appalachian mountains. Sometimes you lose so much it’s hard to see what you’ve gained. Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop is an Appalachian tale of music, loss, family, and land.
About Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop: The piece began as a short story created while I was a student at Indiana University; it consisted of only the first scene which you will see here in GLO 2015 (Green Light One-Acts), the remainder of the play is scheduled for development, so stay tuned.
The short story was written in a creative writing class. Writers tend to work out things in their writing as a way to find answers and closure; I was working out my own sense of loss and Lulla Bell became my voice. In a very broad sense, this piece is semi-autobiographical. Universally, it is a story many can connect with as we all struggle with loss and the journey that life puts us on after that loss.
Part of my family originates from Appalachia which I only learned of in the last few years when writing another story set in the area and looking at the map of the Appalachian region of the United States. One of my grandfathers and an uncle worked the coal mines before migrating to the Midwest. My other grandfather still has family as well as a family cemetery located in the region. I think my comfort of putting Lulla Bell on a mountain came from an ancestral/genetic memory of place; it’s like muscle memory for a violinist/fiddler, any musician – there are songs that come through my fingers that I have forgotten I knew how to play and sometimes that I have only sang and never played before but they start to play themselves because the memory of these songs is more alive than even I am fully conscious of.
From short story to stage play: Ben Harney (Tony Award Winner for the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls”) developed the short story for performance (at the time, aptly entitled “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma”). Upon reading the piece, Ben suggested that it was a theatre piece that should be staged and I should perform it. It was at this time, Lulla Bell Jury’s story became stage worthy. Ben encouraged me to rework it and flush out areas that I eluded too but did not go into fully. He taught me to attack it from several point of views – the audience’s, the actor’s as well as the writer’s – making sure that the scenes were rearranged in the right order. I learned as much about writing as I did about acting. The exhilaration of performing her on stage was as wonderful as creating her on the page. I am forever grateful to Ben for his mentoring.
Expansion: Over the years, Lulla Bell Jury has made it known to me that she was not finished talking. Taking my cue from Lulla, I began to expand the piece which became Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop. In Fiddlin’…, I tune back into Lulla Bell Jury to see how her life is going and how she has weathered the storms. In Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop, I would like to share just what weathering storms means…
About the Playwright: I am a product of the Midwest, mine is a Midwestern voice with flavors of the South. I am a playwright, poet, screenwriter and actor. I love to incorporate authentic regional flavor into my work. Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to my affinity toward southern themes and language in some of my pieces. My work also deals with things of the spirit; I am known for sifting through memories and ghosts and other intangible things for stories… I have studied acting to enhance my voice as a writer. I play the violin; I am more comfortable calling myself a fiddler.
(Article written by the playwright: Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)