Thursday, May 26, 2022

Cedar Oaks Guild Plans Fifth 'Spirits of Oxford' Production

Meet Wash Jones, loyal and dedicated retainer of Col. Thomas Sutpen of Absalom, Absalom! — before he understands how the colonel really sees him.
Meet Wash Jones, loyal and dedicated retainer of Col. Thomas Sutpen of Absalom, Absalom! — before he understands how the colonel really sees him.

The Spirits are coming! But this year, they will not spring from Oxford’s past but from the pages of Oxford’s greatest literary genius, William Faulkner.
This year’s production, entitled “Spirits of Yoknapatawpha County,” will feature characters from Faulkner’s fiction. The production will be presented at the Powerhouse for three performances: an evening performances on Oct. 30 and a matinee on Nov. 2.
Narcissa Benbow Sartoris is a complex young woman who will tell you her story of love and loss and family and explain why she refused to name her son John or Bayard.
Narcissa Benbow Sartoris is a complex young woman who will tell you her story of love and loss and family and explain why she refused to name her son John or Bayard.

The production will include music, special lighting, and scrim sets for individual scenes. Dr. Dianne Fergusson, president of Cedar Oaks Guild and a retired teacher and Faulkner scholar, is the creator, writer and director of the production. Lynn Wells, a COG member and Spirits cast member in the previous four Spirits of Oxford performances, and a cast member this year, is coordinator of the production. Andy Douglas will provide technical assistance, and Cedar Oaks Guild members and volunteers from the community will assist with the production.
“We thought that it would be a good idea to try something new for our fifth production,” Fergusson said. “Since Faulkner’s fiction is one of my passions, I suggested that we build the production around that; it seemed such a perfect fit since we are in Yoknapatawpha County. I contacted Lee Caplin, Executor of Faulkner’s Literary Estate, to get permission to use the copy righted material. Since Cedar Oaks Guild is a non-profit, Lee was not only willing to give the permission but was also very encouraging about the idea. I’ve had great fun developing the characters’ monologs (and one dialog) and can’t wait to see it all come together as some of our best local actors bring the Spirits to life on the stage of the Powerhouse.”
The characters are taken from Faulkner novels, short stories, and his one play. Since some of Faulkner’s characters feature in more than one work, several of the monologs are based on multiple pieces of fiction. In their 9-10 minute monologs, the characters will offer a version of the work or works based on their perspectives. One scene will feature two characters discussion their lives and relationships.
“This is going to be a really entertaining evening, but it’s also going to be educational,” Fergusson explained. “For those people who have put off reading Faulkner because they’ve found him challenging — and he is wonderfully challenging — this will afford the perfect opportunity to get an introductory ‘feel’ for the content of his writing. The production will offer a sampling of the variety of characters along with the complexity of plots to be found in Faulkner, and all of the characters will be using some of Faulkner’s words as they tell their stories. For those many people who’ve already read all of Faulkner, this will be a fun way to review some of their favorite works.”
Lucas Beauchamp is an independent black man in 1930s Yoknapatawpha County. He's a farmer, a bootlegger, a man obsessed with finding a legendary treasure although he's already one of the richest men in the county.
Lucas Beauchamp is an independent black man in 1930s Yoknapatawpha County. He’s a farmer, a bootlegger, a man obsessed with finding a legendary treasure although he’s already one of the richest men in the county.

Spirits will be the first dramatic presentation to use the Powerhouse’s new shark tooth scrim and screen, according to Wells.
“We’re excited to be the group to introduce this new technology to Oxford’s theater-going public,” Wells said. “This technology will enable us to move through over 100 years of historical time as we shift from scene to scene, providing sets unique to each character to help tell the stories.”
Ten characters will present stories from 16 of Faulkner’s works. The works featured are the novels Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, Sartoris, Flags in the Dust, Go Down, Moses, Intruder in the Dust, The Unvanquished, The Hamlet, The Town, The Mansion, As I Lay Dying, and the Sound and the Fury. The short stories “Wash” and “There Was a Queen” will also be represented as will Faulkner’s only play, “Requiem for a Nun.”
The characters who will tell their stories are V. K. Ratliff (Snopes: The Hamlet, The Town, The Mansion), played by David Bell; Rosa Millard (The Unvanquished), played by Kaye Bryant; Quentin Compson (The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!), played by Chandler Craig; Narcissa Benbow Sartoris (Sartoris, Flags in the Dust, “There Was a Queen”), played by Marty Dunbar; Wash Jones (Absalom, Absalom!), played by Jack Mayfield; Nancy Mannigoe (Requiem for a Nun), played by Detra Payne; Lena Grove (Light in August) , played by Genvieve Simpson; Cora Tull (As I Lay Dying, The Hamlet), played by Lynn Wells; and Thomas Sutpen (Absalom, Absalom!), played by Ken Wooten. The role of Lucas Beauchamp (Intruder in the Dust; Go down, Moses) will be played by Henry Clarke.
Lena Grove has been walking across Alabama and northern Mississippi just to get to Jefferson and Lucas Burch. You know you want to meet her and be on hand for the birth of her son.
Lena Grove has been walking across Alabama and northern Mississippi just to get to Jefferson and Lucas Burch. You know you want to meet her and be on hand for the birth of her son.

Dressed in period costumes, the characters will tell their stories before a backlit screen that features a photograph related to each story. Different musical themes will introduce each character. Minimal props and staging will be utilized.
Opening night on Oct. 30 will feature an elegant reception sponsored by Cedar Oaks Guild and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. The reception will begin an hour before the performance and will continue after the performance so audience members can meet the actors who will remain in character throughout. All proceeds from this production will benefit the continued preservation of Cedar Oaks that is the primary mission of the Cedar Oaks Guild.
Tickets for the opening night reception and performance are $25. Tickets for the Nov. 2 performance is $15. Groups of 15 to 19 qualify for a discounted price of $12 and for groups of 20 or more, tickets are discounted to $10. Tickets may be purchased online. Tickets will also be for sale before the Thacker Mountain programs on October 23 and October 30.
For more information, contact Dianne Fergusson at (662) 236-4088 or sdsferg@bellsouth.net.

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