Sunday, December 28, 2014

So, Wilbo Writes a Play, and You Can See It the Last Weekend in February 2015.

On Christmas Eve, I heard wonderful news from one of my favorite local theater companies, The Stark Turn Players of Grand Rapids, Michigan. To my mind, the only difference between STP and the Purple Rose Theater Company is Jeff Daniels and the resources and leadership he makes available to the company. When STP has an actor or two break the glass ceiling to Broadway & Hollywood, that will change. STP is a partner in the upcoming Lake Effect Fringe Festival and the festival selected my play, "Driving Daughters" to produce the final weekend of February, 2-27;2-28 & 3-1. It's a program of short plays, so if you are an actor, this is a huge chance to work with an excellent theater company. Auditions are slated for January 9th & 10th, so give it a shot.

I am gratified that one of Muskegon's great men of letters, Bill Iddings, also got the nod from STP for his play, "Pops and the Princess". Eight playwrights in all heard the invite, and one includes the master playwright, Mary G. Kron. How I ended up in such wonderful company must be the work of my review and criticism team, including Eleanor Watson andSteven Kautz, among several who critiqued my play anonymously.

The inspiration for "Driving Daughters" began in the car trip of a now erstwhile friend around Howard City. In the Amble Cemetery, she found the tombstone of the martyred teacher of the Bath school bombing, Hazel Weatherby. In short, a disgrunted school board member named Andrew Kehoe planted thousands of pounds of explosives in the new built Bath Consolidated School Building. Weatherby, several teachers and thirty-eight children were claimed by the blast. Before 9-11, 3-18

On May 18, 1927, Kehoe ignited the dynamite by a timed device, and much of the dynamite failed to explode. Unfortunately, the 21 year old Hazel Weatherby was caught in the blast, and perished attempting to shield two boys with her body. I followed up with a visit to the Amble Cemetery, and then visited the Lakeview, Michigan library to glean what I could. In the Lakeview paper article, I learned that Hazel's father Frank personally transported his heroic daughter's body home to Amble for her funeral. He drove his daughter home for the final time. As I am teacher with a decade in the classroom, father and uncle, my mind reeled to imagine that journey and I knew what I had to write. I picked up the script for revision yesterday morning and I read it with a hand over my mouth. And STP has promised to give those words life, bringing the best acting talent in West Michigan to the effort.

We all know that the classroom has become a battlefield, with bullets and ballot boxes, a horrible situation that must stop. Teachers are the front-line in our community fight against want and ignorance; teachers were never meant to be first responders, although that is a heroic path to follow. I will be the production's dramaturg, documenting the overlooked Martyred Teacher of Bath and her family. For example, I must know if Frank Weatherby had taken Masonic oaths as a member of that once ubiquitous order of men and women. For that matter, had Andrew Kehoe shared Masonic secrets, betraying his oaths? This is a historical rabbit hole worth digging.

The Village and School District of Bath still observes the 3-18 Anniversary with a gathering. It is my hope to take this play and the research to this year's observance in Bath. I ask that you come see the play the last weekend in February and support the cause.

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