Whitesburg KY

Play to be based on Letcher stories

Cowan Community Action Group Inc. has obtained a grant to create a play based on original stories shared by Letcher County residents.

“What we are going for now is a first incarnation, a sampling, a tasting of what a community story play can look, feel and sound like,” said Robert Martin, a consultant of the group’s community story play project. “Then get people involved so we can build off of that toward a larger, full scale production.”

Martin, a theater artist from Rockcastle County, and Carol Ison, director of the Cowan group, have hosted four storygathering sessions in recent weeks at the Cowan Community Center in an effort to collect material and complete a draft by the end of October for a play.

The community story play project is funded by a grant from the Brushy Fork Institute and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“What we want is that when we present it, it will have all the elements that people would get from a theatrical performance if they went away from here,” said Ison. “Cowan Community’s goal in doing this is to have a permanent community theater, just like we have with the Cowan Creek Music School that has become highly successful.”

Martin’s vision is for the play to center around stories told by Letcher County residents and performed by community members. Martin said there are several ways for people to get involved in the project, whether it be providing stories, music or volunteering behind the scenes.

Martin said possible story ideas directed at Cowan Creek 50 years ago, today and 50 years from now might answer the following questions: What does Cowan Creek mean to you?; Why is place important as part of community?; What stories do you have to tell about Cowan Creek or other parts of Letcher County that you feel have important stories to share to make our community story project about this place?

Martin said it isn’t too late for Letcher County residents to get involved in the community story play project.

“We’ll create the group from the people who are committed and want to rehearse through November,” said Martin.

A play, which Martin describes as a work in progress, will be presented at the Cowan Community Center on December 5.

“By developing a community story play for the community and by the community, we feel like is the best way to generate the kind of dialogue around what type of community theater this community wants,” said Martin. “Is it a space that continues to tell stories specific to Letcher County and the area? Is it something that community members what a place to practice creativity and collaboration? Is it developing a venue where there can be a hybrid of communitybased plays and professional, cultural offerings that interact?”

The community story play project will be discussed during Cowan Community Action’s 50th anniversary celebration October 25 at the community center. The event, which will include dinner and a square dance, begins at 2 p.m.

“Community action programs were springing up throughout the nation and here in Letcher County they were popular,” said Ison. “We started then and we are still functioning. We are pretty proud of the fact that out of all of the groups that started we are the only one in the county that still owns our community center, we own the land where the school originally stood and we have also constructed this facility.”

Persons interested in volunteering with the community story play project, may call Ison at 633-9831 or 634-3683.

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