Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World Premier Play "The Quarry" Hit INCREDIBLY Close to Home

Last night, I went with my husband, Jeff Modereger, to the last dress rehearsal before opening night of the Vermont Stage Company's production of a play called "The Quarry"   
"The Quarry" a play making its world
premier in Burlington, Vermont this
week, hit close to home, and has me in a
pensive mood.  

Its world premier is tonight and has a run in Burlington, Vermont through May 11.

Jeff is the scenic designer for the play, so we chose last night to go, since he had to be there anyway in case any last minute issues came up.

(Information on obtaining tickets, times of the show are available by clicking the hyperlink in this sentence.)

I hope tickets for the play sell out, but I'm glad there weren't a lot of people there watching "The Quarry" last night.

I got surprisingly emotional, because the play hit incredibly close to home.

"The Quarry," written by Shelburne, Vermont native Greg Pierce, with a musical score by his brother, Randal Pierce, takes place in an old marble quarrying town somewhere in Vermont. (The playwright doesn't specify which town)

There's several old marble quarrying towns in Vermont, and I grew up in one, West Rutland.

The play involves some strange goings on at the quarry, which produces beautiful green marble. A local teenage girl has gone missing around the quarry. The working quarry is abruptly shut down because of a mysterious "culturally significant" find in there.

Human bones are found, too.

All the while, the widow Jean, who has lived in the town all her life and lived in a house she and her late husband Sammy built within sight of the quarry, offers a running commentary.

She really loved Sammy, but now that Sammy is dead, Jean's only friend is a great blue heron that sometimes circles the quarry. She's bitter, doesn't really like most people, and people don't like her, judging her as "ornery"

During a pivotal scene, Jean is on the phone with her daughter in Texas. We learn that Sammy was the go-to person in town for anybody living there who wanted to know anything about themselves. And Jean is as bitter as ever.

My dad is the go-to person in West Rutland when people there want to know anything about themselves.

But the impact of this moment in "The Quarry," as it pertains to my father, was the least of it.

The bigger issue is, small towns in Vermont -- small quarry towns -- can be interesting, stifling, boring, funny, pretty, grim, insular, odd, friendly. Sometimes all simultaneously.

Quarries themselves involve the same adjectives. I know, I've been in them. And my husband's set design of the quarry captures all these feelings so well. I know I'm biased about his work but the same feelings I had when I went into quarries emerged when I saw Jeff's set.

The set, with its rendering of deep marble walls and marble block, made me feel a little nostalgic, a little claustrophobic, and just a tiny bit fearful.

I remember fear being a subtext of my life growing up in West Rutland, just as it turned out to be among residents of the town in "The Quarry" Yes, West Rutland was safe, physically. But that's it.

In any small town, there's fear. That insularity you get from some people is a symptom of fear of outsiders.  They're not from here. Don't trust them.

Jean's fear, and my own mother's lesser but still real loneliness in West Rutland in all those years living there, is based in part of fear of the unknown.

Jean's inability to fully accept love, and the same trait in some of my relatives, is based in fear.

I even wonder if Sammy's quest of knowledge about everything, including the town, and my own father's deep intellectual curiosity, was somehow based on fear.  Was it fear of not knowing what's going on?   Was my dad's decision to own a bar for decades, and his gregariousness, in just some tiny part a fear of being alone?

I guess anywhere you live, how you live, who you live with, there's fear. We even fear the good things.  Will they go away? Are they an illusion? Do we deserve them? What if we don't?

There is something of a fantasy scene in "The Quarry" that I won't get into because I don't want to reveal more of the plot.  But it's about reaching out beyond the fear.

Is the ability to reach beyond our fears just a fantasy? Is there hope for people who can't seem to go beyond their fears? I don't know.  Or is that unreal moment in "The Quarry" obtainable for the rest of us, in some shape or form?

That's what made me so emotional watching the excellent production of "The Quarry."  Like many people, I'm not often good at overcome fear, whatever that fear might be. The similarities to my life, and the comparisons to some of the people in my life that I saw unfold in "The Quarry" gave me that proverbial punch in the gut.

Unfortunately, that fear, that lack of leaping, stunts our life. Just like a small marble quarry town can limit our horizons if we let it.

Driving home from the play last night, I thought of a song that hadn't crossed my mind in years. It's Simon and Garfunkle's "My Little Town" from the mid 1970s.

It's a sad and angry tune about growing up in a small factory town.

A piece of the lyrics go:

And after it rains
There's a rainbow
But all of the colors are black
It's not that the colors aren't there.
It's just imagination they lack.

I guess letting go of fear is in part letting your imagination take over. Which the pivotal scene in "The Quarry" told us to do.

As the song "My Little Town" approaches its bitter close, Simon and Garfunkle repeat, over and over, with some urgency.

"Nothing but the dead and I
back in my little town"

The dead, I think, are not literally dead, but are the people who let fear of life win. I have to remember that, and not let it happen.

Easier said than done, but well worth the try.

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