Friday, November 23, 2007

The Last

The Kentucky Cycle Remix by Greg, 11/16/07 (to the tune of My Old Kentucky Home):

The show must end,
And tomorrow we will strike
And return to our normal lives.

Our friends, family,
Our husbands and wives will say,
"We're so glad you survived."

Weep no more, my cast mates.
Oh weep, no more today.
We will sing one song as this play comes to an end,
And we'll sing it with our new thirty friends.

So we ended the run with tears during the final song and hugs and tears in the dressing room. I am grateful for this experience with this cast and crew, many of whom I will miss and others who I will haunt so as not to miss them too much. A few days after we closed I began to get angry at the people who said they would come but didn't. I'm proud of the work we did and wish more people, especially more of my friends, had seen it. But such is life. This was a big challenge and I am glad for having had the opportunity, the shared experience, the camaraderie and the support of our cast, which shone brightest on the nights when we outnumbered the house. We should pat ourselves on the back for a job more than well done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Margaret Garner, Fugitive Slave

This is from "The Kay Bourne Arts Report" published by The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc. and Kay Bourne. In preparing for young Sallie each night, I try to imagine how she came to be in the hands of Michael Rowen and what her life was like before she was a slave. When I think of the lengths some of my ancestors went through to try to free themselves or just to survive their circumstances, I am amazed at the sacrifices they were willing to make and wonder what situation I could possibly find myself in that would make me do the same.


For the opera "MARGARET GARNER," Toni MORRISON revisited the account of a trial in February, 1856 which had inspired her to write her novel "Beloved." The two act opera, first performed in May, 2005, is one of the few operas written about the African American experience, the other notable examples being George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" and "Treemonisha" by Scott Joplin, an African American, as is Morrison.

New York City Opera, housed at Lincoln City, recently staged the emotionally involving "Margaret Garner" with its charming lyrical score from Richard Danielpour and a searing libretto by Morrison. Brilliantly directed by Tazewell Thompson and magnificently sung and acted with Tracie Luck in the title role, the stunning production so captivated the audience that cheers went up when a cruel overseer was killed in one of the twists of the gripping story.

Margaret Garner, 22, had escaped slavery on a night of record freezing temperatures, crossing the frozen Ohio River on foot in an expedition led by her husband who had been hired out to labor on a nearby estate. They were fleeing to Cincinnati, Ohio, a free state, less than 20 miles away from the Richwood, Kentucky estate, Maplewood, where she toiled and had been repeatedly raped by its owner Archibald K. Gaines.

When the U.S. Marshalls, including Gaines, find them, there is a shoot out in which the husband wounds two of the deputies. Faced with the imminent return to slavery, she slits her daughter's throat and attempts to murder her three other small children rather than see them returned to slavery. Because Margaret Garner was subject to the terms of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and also liable for murder in the state of Ohio, the trial became the longest fugitive slave case of the antebellum era. Had she destroyed property by killing the child or committed murder? (This) became the tangled issue that lengthened the trial.

Morrison has said that "Beloved" was about forgetting. About the avoidance of the subject of slavery that neither Whites nor Blacks are comfortable thinking about. That shutting out the past became structurally what held the book together. She approached the libretto knowing that in opera there is very little nuance and ambiguity. So while Morrison does portray Margaret Garner as a complex character, with the opera she keeps more to the facts of her life as Morrison could determine them from news accounts. "If you're going to make it bigger and theatrical than you have to get your facts right," she told City Opera dramaturg Cori Nelson about how the libretto differs from the novel inspired by the same life. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Surviving The Kentucky Cycle

I should have posted this a while ago but hey, we've been doing the show, right? I wrote this and sent it off to friends after our opening weekend.

October 8, 2007
I Survived Opening Weekend of The Kentucky Cycle


Tomorrow I hope to feel somewhat rested.

What a week.

After a seven hour rehearsal last Saturday, we had two days off before tech. We teched part one on Tuesday evening without props and costumes -- our first night on the stage -- and began the psychological process of existing in small spaces within the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) black box with 22 other actors. (Tech rehearsals are not fun: there is a lot of waiting around for cues to be set, redoing cues, waiting for the designers to make changes at the discretion of the director. As a result, everyone can get antsy and testy. Thankfully, we have a wonderful production stage manager who does her best to keep things moving so we get through it as quickly as possible with as little pain as possible.) There is a cross-over upstage which is just wide enough for two actors to pass each other chest-to-chest. A few times during the show the cross over is full of actors changing and waiting to go on. Thankfully, the BCA cleared out, cleaned up and carpeted the dressing room over the summer but ventilation is still an issue. We all sweat profusely and take turns sitting by the dressing tables where we can enjoy some cool air from the fan. The small back corner of the room is big enough for the women in the cast, our rack of costumes and boxes of shoes. A curtain and chairs make it a nice cozy little space in which we can nest. My castmate Melissa has a calm and innocent air about her, almost as if she is always looking at the world with new eyes and simple appreciation. On Friday evening we were in the nest and in a very child-like manner she said she likes our "woman hole." With tears streaming down our cheeks we didn't stop laughing for five minutes. The men have a space on the other side with two racks of costumes, plus their stuff tends to overfllow onto the makeup tables and general floor space. We deal with it and it all works just fine.

On Wednesday evening we teched part two, again without props and costumes. The stage is much higher than we envisioned and negotiating the steps upstage isn't as easy as we would like. The treads are a little shallow and the rise is deep. Thursday was a full dress from noon until approximately 11:30pm during which time I slightly twisted my ankle and more seriously hurt my heel. Some props were still missing -- my iron shackles, onstage food, you name it -- music and lyrics still being learned, people working on pacing, etc. Friday evening was spent concentrating on specific problem areas and we got out a little early.

As expected, our Saturday opening -- call at noon, show at 2p -- felt more like a final dress than anything else. After checking in at the theater, I walked across the street to Francesca's for a tea and sandwich. Standing at the counter, I could barely form words.

"Can I help you?"

"Um, yes." (loooong pause)

The young man at the counter patiently waits.

"Um, yes. I'd like a, eh, ah, ummm..."

*big sigh*

"Sorry. I'm just really exhausted and can't form a coherent sentence right now... Give me a minute."

Five minutes later after an audible stumble through the words "ginger-peach tea", "chicken mini sandwich" and "chocolate chunk cookie", I get my order and wander back to the theater.

Openings are amazing. The body can be totally exhausted but the mind (and ego, I suspect) kick in. You want to do a good show for the audience, your fellow cast mates, your director, yourself and the critics, and not necessarily in that order. Energies you remember having before the week of tech are suddenly summoned. The hours of an aggravating day beforehand are lost. You set your props and costumes, put on your makeup, warm up and do your best to hit your marks and shine.

We had some press in the house on Saturday even though it was not the press opening: Louise Kennedy from The Globe and Larry Stark from Theatre Mirror. I did not forget the words to the second verse of "Amazing Grace" for my solo at the top of the show. Gun shots actually came at the right time. The floor was a little sticky from thrown Cream of Wheat but no one slipped on it. Jonathan was able to get me out of the shackles onstage so I didn't have to use the emergency allen wrench in the dressing room. No audience members or lights were taken out by rifles. Jacob was safely lowered into the trap upstage. We formed a union and chanted the correct number of "Union!"'s on our exits. Heart-wrenching, soul-sucking ending number 1 with the cast marching out singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Phew.

Dinner break at 5:20p, back for fight call at 6:30p. In between I get a quick hug from a friend who I forgot was coming (she knows someone else in the cast), limp to CVS to get more items for my sore and swollen foot, grab a tea and a slice and curl my hair for part 2. 7:30p curtain. Some new faces in the house. Odd that they didn't see the first performance of part 1 but they are here for the first performance of part 2. Our director gives them a 10 second rundown of the events of part 1 and we begin. Land is bought for a song, guns sold and used, husbands shunned. Lovers part, sons die and most importantly, a dead baby truly put to rest. Heart-wrenching, soul-sucking ending number 2 as the cast sings "My Old Kentucy Home". 11:15pm. My friend tells me she enjoyed the show, gives me a hug and goes home.

Omigod, someone get me a drink.

Like Jews wandering the desert, we try to find a place to drink that can accomodate approximately 15 people on a Saturday night at 11:30p. Sibling Rivalry will not let us in because they are filled to capacity. We leave three cast members there and wander to Masa. Too loud. Do we go to the theater district or up towards the Back Bay T? A show of hands indicates a split vote. I decide to check back at Sibling and then head toward the T, like a pied piper with cast members in tow. We finally end up at Delux which is remarkably empty. Yay for $5 mixed drinks. I finally spend some time speaking with our fight captain with whom I had very little contact. He doesn't know that we have a friend in common. We chat for a bit and then I hang with my castmates as we drink and contemplate Sunday.

Sunday I wake up just in time to shower and get to the theater for 12:30p call. Grab some food at Francesca's and hope that we have a good show for the press. Four press people are in the house. Someone sobs audibly during my first scene. Most but not all of the audience stays for part 2. This doesn't bother us since one doesn't have to buy tickets for both parts at the same time. They laugh, they cry... it really is better than "Cats". Afterwards we wander up to Delux but it is closed so we end up back at the BCA at the Beehive next door. My friend Krista is on the bar and happy to see us. We devour food and drinks and begin to accept the exhaustion we've all kept at bay. A man at the bar attempts to pick up all of the women in our cast although not at the same time. Somewhere around 1am my friend/castmate Brian is ready to go so he drives me home. After falling asleep on my couch with Miss Lily Cat, I crawl in bed around 3:30a to catch a few hours before coming to work. I don't remember the last time I was this tired. Note to self: Don't attempt to do a six-hour show unless you are making a living in theater and don't have to go to another job.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Sole survivor of Sago Mine disaster says some of the miners' air packs failed

Vicki Smith Associated Press April 27, 2006

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. -- Trapped deep below ground by poisonous gases, the Sago miners realized at least four of their air packs did not work and were forced to share the devices as they desperately pounded away with a sledgehammer in hopes of letting rescuers know where to find them, the sole survivor says.

Then, resigned to their fate, the men recited a "sinner's prayer," scrawled farewell notes to their loved ones, and succumbed, one after another, some as if drifting off to sleep.

"As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else," Randal McCloy Jr. wrote to his co-workers' families in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press.

McCloy's two-page typed letter offered the most detailed account yet of what happened in the mine after the Jan. 2 explosion, along with criticism that the mine's operator, International Coal Group Inc., let them down.

The blast killed one miner and spread carbon monoxide that slowly asphyxiated 11 other men 260 feet below ground as they waited in the farthest reaches of the mine to be rescued.

McCloy spokeswoman Aly Goodwin Gregg said Thursday that McCloy's letter was given to the families confidentially, and he would not comment further. ICG did not immediately return a call for comment.

The air packs -- referred to in the letter as "rescuers" -- are intended to give each miner about an hour's worth of oxygen while they escape or find a pocket of clean air. But at least four of the devices did not function, McCloy said.

"There were not enough rescuers to go around," McCloy said. He said he shared his air pack with one man, and three other miners sought help from others.

The miners returned to their shuttle car in hopes of escaping along the track but had to abandon their efforts because of bad air. They then retreated, hung a curtain to keep out the poisonous gases, and tried to signal their location by beating on the mine bolts and plates.

"We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time, we took turns pounding away," McCloy wrote. "We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could. This effort caused us to breathe much harder. We never heard a responsive blast or shot from the surface."

Martin "Junior" Toler, 51, and Tom Anderson, 39, made another, last-ditch attempt to find a way out but were quickly turned back by heavy smoke and fumes, McCloy said.

"We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate," he wrote. "Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer."

McCloy said the air behind the curtain grew worse, and he lay as low as possible and tried to take shallow breaths, but became lightheaded.

"Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep, and one person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him," McCloy wrote. "The last person I remember speaking to was Jackie Weaver, who reassured me that if it was our time to go, then God's will would be fulfilled."

He said he has no idea much time went by before he passed out.

Doctors have been unable to pinpoint why McCloy, 27 was the only who survived the 41 hours it took rescuers to find the crew. He left the mine battered and comatose and is still recovering from brain damage.

"I cannot begin to express my sorrow for my lost friends and my sympathy for those they left behind," he wrote. "I cannot explain why I was spared while the others perished. I hope that my words will offer some solace to the miners' families and friends who have endured what no one should ever have to endure."

The Sago miners were using air packs manufactured by Monroeville, Pa.-based CSE Corp., according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The packs use a chemical reaction to produce oxygen. The company's literature says the units have a 10-year shelf life and require no maintenance beyond periodic visual inspections of moisture indicators on the top and bottom covers.

Production at the mine resumed March 15, and it was not immediately clear if ICG miners are now relying on the same type of devices.

At least two miners who escaped the blast said they, too, struggled with their air pack. Arnett Roger Perry told state and federal investigators he could not initially activate his.

"They're not worth a damn," co-worker Harley Joe Ryan, 60, told investigators. "There's going to have to be some design changes for them."

Though state and federal investigators have reached no official conclusions about the cause of the explosion, ICG officials say they believe it was caused by a lightning bolt that ignited a buildup of naturally occurring methane.

The Bush administration is reviewing air packs and other safety equipment used in the nation's mines after previously scrapping similar initiatives started by the Clinton administration.
Copyright C 2006 Deseret News Publishing Co.Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Some will rob you with a six gun...

This is the Woody Guthrie quote used at the top of "Tall Tales."I was researching this today because we weren't sure if it was from a song or not. It is indeed from a song called "Pretty Boy Floyd" about a robber in rural Oklahoma.

If you'll gather 'round me, children
A story I will tell'
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee
A Saturday afternoon
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude
Vulgar words of anger
An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City
It was on a Christmas Day
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen

And as through your life you travel
Yes, as through your life you roam
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Here's a link to our preview in the Boston Globe:

And here's a link to the Fall Arts Preview itself. If you click on "Theater" in the section in the middle of the page (which may take a while to load) you can listen to theater critic Louise Kennedy talk about The Kentucky Cycle and how excited she is to see it:

Friday, August 31, 2007


The full link to read about the self-stabbing Brutus is:

This guy needed Meron!

Actor playing Brutus stabs himself

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Some weapon related sites

I tracked down some websites with info about some of the weapons that appear in the play, either directly or indirectly.

Here is a website on weapons of the Civil War:

And some resources on the Gatling gun:

And bowie knives:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Act of Vengeance

Act of Vengeance was a 1986 fact-based TV movie about the corruption that occurred during the United Mine Workers' 1969 presidential elections. Jock Yablonski (Charles Bronson) was a loyal follower of then chief Tony Boyle (Wilford Brimley). That all changed after 80 men are killed in an unsafe West Virginia coal mine and Boyle defended the mine owners. At his wife's (Ellen Burstyn) urging and in fear of his life, Yablonski launched his campaign. And in fact, he became the target of assassins. One of the assassins, Paul Gilly, was played by actor Robert Schenkkan. (Surprised that Fire in the Hole or Which Side Are You On? aren't even bloodier or have more corruption!)

The 1969 UMW presidential elections and the Yablonski murders are included in Harlan County USA. As I was watching the movie, I recalled knowing all about it and tried to recall why. With a little research, I found that defendant W. A. "Tony" Boyle was on trial from March 25 through April 11, 1974 for the murder in Media, PA - my hometown and the county seat. I seem to recall the trial was moved from another jurisdiction to our local courthouse. So, it was front page and prime-time news every day for months before and during the trial.

Harlan County War

Just picked this offa Netflix. This was a Showtime movie made in 2000 or so, based off of Harlan County, USA, starring Holly Hunter. If you happen to come across it, I don't recommend wasting your time watching it. Most of the movie is all right, but it's really not as good as the documentary, and Holly Hunter is horrible. I couldn't understand a word she was saying, the dialect is so thick. If anything, it's a lesson on how thick NOT to make your dialect, and how important it is to use your neck and mouth muscles to enunciate this Kentucky way of speaking. You can see how tense her mouth and neck are in the film when she speaks, and all of her words hit right behind her front teeth, giving her a "shhh" sound. Its like if you spoke without moving your jaw and saying "shhhh" all at once. Frustrating as hell.
Anyway, steer clear, if you ask me.

Harlan County USA

Watched Harlan County USA again over the weekend. Saw it's initial commercial release in theaters. Still very powerful and resonates very strongly with characters and themes in Fire in the Hole & Which Side Are You On? The first lines heard are a miner crying out, "Fire in the hole." Florence Reece is seen at a miner's rally singing, "Which Side Are You On?" A critical assessment of the film is linked to below.

Harlan County USA: No Neutrals Here

Miners eating Coal to survive

check out this story if you haven't seen it yet. I have no idea what to think.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Info on Early Kentucky

This website has some helpful information about the early years of Kentucky:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Would you sit through a six-hour play?

"Our culture may be defined by the soundbite and the text message but it seems we like our books, films and plays to be of epic proportions."

British playwright Mark Ravenhill blogs about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and observations about the recently announced revival of Nicholas Nickleby, originally produced in 1980. (The grandfather of the contemporary epics. Leading the way for The Kentucky Cycle, Angels in America and, even, The Coast of Utopia.)

Would you sit through a six-hour play?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The ravages of war

There is a lot of violence depicted in the The Kentucky Cycle, including the Civil War during God's Great Supper. The Korean War is an important component of Which Side Are You On? This photo speaks volumes of the ravages of war and the impact it can have on young lives.

One of the more shocking photographs to emerge from the current Iraq war was taken last year in a rural farm town in the American Midwest. It’s a studio portrait by the New York photographer Nina Berman of a young Illinois couple on their wedding day.

The bride, Renee Kline, 21, is dressed in a traditional white gown and holds a bouquet of scarlet flowers. The groom, Ty Ziegel, 24, a former Marine sergeant, wears his dress uniform, decorated with combat medals, including a Purple Heart. Her expression is unsmiling, maybe grave. His, as he looks toward her, is hard to read: his dead-white face is all but featureless, with no nose and no chin, as blank as a pullover mask.

Two years earlier, while in Iraq as a Marine Corps reservist, Mr. Ziegel had been trapped in a burning truck after a suicide bomber’s attack. The heat melted the flesh from his face. At Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas he underwent 19 rounds of surgery. His shattered skull was replaced by a plastic dome, and a face was constructed more or less from scratch with salvaged tissue, holes left where his ears and nose had been.

Ms. Berman took this picture, which is in the solo show at Jen Bekman Gallery, on assignment for People magazine. It was meant to accompany an article that documented Mr. Ziegel’s recovery, culminating in his marriage to his childhood sweetheart. But the published portrait was a convivial shot of the whole wedding party. Maybe the image of the couple alone was judged to be too stark, the emotional interchange too ambiguous. Maybe they looked, separately and together, too alone.

Another 1,000 Treaty Oaks bite the dust ... coal dust that is!

Washington, August 22 - The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into the valleys and streams.

It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Selective memories of Ezekiel and Joleen in God's Great Supper

It's really charming how Joleen and Ezekiel are so selective in terms of the bible verses they choose to wrap their hearts and minds around. They do tend to favor the Old Testament, but not these particular gems:

Deuteronomy 24:16
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

Deuteronomy 32:35
It is mine to avenge, I will repay. (says the Lord)

Perhaps Joleen and Zeke's book of Romans got lost in the mail:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (12:17)

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written "it is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

Do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. (12: 19-21)

Another note:
Interesting that the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon. (Though different from Ezekiel of KC - apparently this prophet had his own house and along with his fellow exiles, "had a relatively free existence.") Ezekiel's "period of activity coincides with Jerusalem's darkest hour." (NIV study bible)

Why the war did not last only 6 weeks...

"About the only thing the South seemed to have going for it was a home-field advantage." (this quote and data below are from Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis)

What each team had starting out:


23 states - including California, Oregon, and the 3 "border states" of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland, and 7 territories

Population: 22 million (4 million of combat age)


  • 100,000 factories
  • 1.1 million workers
  • 20,000 miles or railroad (70% of US total; 96% of all railroad equipment)
  • $189 million in bank deposits (81% of US total bank deposits)
  • $56 million in gold specie


11 states

Population: 9 million (3.5 million slaves; only 1.2 million men of combat age)


  • 20,000 factories
  • 101,000 workers
  • 9,000 miles of railroad
  • $47 million in bank deposits
  • $27 million in gold specie

The North also outproduced the South in agricultural products and livestock holdings (except for asses and mules). But the South did produce more cotton than the North, which was raised by.....the slaves.

What the South had to its advantage:

The US Army was largely comprised and led by Southerners who immediately defected to the South's cause.

Southerners for the most part were better riders and better with weapons.

The Northern armies were made up largely of conscripts from urban areas (many who were immigrants who spoke less to no English), who were less familiar with weapons and were not as excited as fighting for the "principles" of "preserving the Union" and stopping the spread of slavery.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pemmican - it goes where you go!

Basic Pemmican
2 oz. cooked, ground, and dried beef
2 and 1/2 oz. lard or vegetable fat (shortening)
Put the meat in a container lined with plastic film. Melt the fat and let it cool slightly to a gluey consistency. Pour the fat over the meat and let it harden. Wrap airtight and store, preferably in a freezer if you won't need the pemmican for a while.
Pemmican #2
2 oz. cooked, ground, and dried beef
2 and 1/2 oz. lard or vegetable fat
1 T minced dried onions
Prepare as above.
Pemmican #3
2 oz. cooked, ground, and dried beef
3 oz. lard or vegetable fat
1/2 oz. dried (heat dried) ground berries
Prepare as above.

These recipes come from a book entitled The Complete Light-Pack Camping and Trail Foods Cookbook by Edwin P. Drew. The author suggests shaping the pemmican into bars by packing it into a match box lined with plastic wrap and then removing it when hard. He recommends the use of lard over vegetable shortening because of its superior flavor. He suggests that if you are going to carry other foods along with the pemmican, as is commonly done today, that you carry the pemmican and the berries separately. Lightly salting or peppering the pemmican after it cools will add additional flavor. The pemmican, like all dried foods, should be protected from heat and light. Depending on the ingredients, preparation, and storage conditions the pemmican should last up to 8 months or better. Freezing will definitely extend the life.

Pemmican has a very high food value. Made as the basic recipe above, it has 185 calories, 10 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fat per ounce.

In God's Great Supper, Granpa Patrick - first seen as a teenager in The Homecoming & in mid-life in Ties That Bind - is using chewing tobacco and spits, almost hitting Richard. I googled it, and the first two pages of results were all about the health dangers of chewing tobacco. (Terry Francona is a current 'chewer' and he always looks pretty disgusting with that wad in his cheeks. Spit it out & chew some gum or something else!) This content is from the University of Minnesota, Division of Periodontology. "ST companies sponsor rock concerts, rodeos, auto racing and tractor pulls," is a telling quote and serves to reinforce some stereotypes. I tried it once in high school at a camp, lasted about 1 minute before I spit it out gaging. 1% of American females us ST. Never seen it, maybe need to meet an old lady with a spittoon to break the stereotype. I like how ST can stand for Smokeless Tobacco or Spit Tobacco. Versatile acronym. How's your spitting technique, Jeff!?!

Smokeless Tobacco Facts

Types of Smokeless (Spit) Tobacco:

The two types of smokeless tobacco (ST) are chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco is sold in loose leaf, twist and plug forms. Snuff comes in moist, dry and sachet forms. The most popular form of ST today is moist snuff.

Prevalence of the estimated 10 million users of ST, 3 million are under the age of 21. Almost 25% of young users start by the 6th grade, and almost 75% start by the 9th grade. In 1970, young males ages 17-19 used ST the least of any age group. Today, usage by males of these ages is the highest of any age group. More than 5% of adult American males, and 1% of females, use ST. Among US youth in grades 9-12, 10-20% use ST at least once a month and 2-3% use daily.

Tobacco Industry Advertising and Promotion:

The tobacco industry has targeted male adolescents with its aggressive advertising. Ads associate ST with rodeos, rock stars, and sports heroes. ST companies sponsor rock concerts, rodeos, auto racing and tractor pulls.

Risks of Smokeless Tobacco Use:

Spit tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking. It can cause oral cancers and lead to addiction.The major carcinogens in ST are nitrosamines, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and radioactive and metallic compounds. The nitrosamine content of ST exceeds beyond 1000X the nitrosamine content allowed by the FDA in products like beer and bacon. ST is also associated with cancers of the esophagus, larynx, and stomach, and an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.40-60% of ST users exhibit leukolakia in the area where the quid is held, usually within a few months of beginning regular use. Leukoplakia is regarded as precancerous with a malignant transformation rate of 2-6%. Other oral side effects of ST include gingival recession, staining of teeth, loss of taste, and bad breath. Chewing tobacco users have an increase in dental caries due to the higher sugar content in this ST product.ST is dangerous...but Smoking is 2x more likely to cause oral cancer than smokeless tobacco.

The Battle of New Orleans and Colonel Henderson

In Ties that Bind, Deputy Grey and Patrick Rowen bond over their shared experience of fighting "with Old Hickory at New Orleans." That refers to the Battle of New Orleans, the last major battle of the War of 1812. The clash took place on January 8, 1815, just a few miles south of New Orleans, and involved the invading British (who were trying to capture control of the Mississippi River and the area of the Louisiana Purchase) and the defending Americans, lead by Gen. Andrew Jackson. (Jackson was later called Old Hickory as he was known to be tough as hickory.) The battle was a rout for the Americans, with 385 British and 13 Americans dead. Ironically, the war was over prior to the Battle, as the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War, had been signed in late December 1814 in Europe with the news reaching New Orleans in Feb. 1815.

To hear a short NPR report about the Battle, and its affect on Jackson's and America's political future, go to:

To read the wiki entry on the Battle, go to:

In Ties, Patrick Rowen refers to a Col. Henderson who "got his ass shot off in them Cypress Swamps." Presumably, this refers to the the 1st Regiment West Tennessee Militia's Col. James Henderson, who was killed in a skirmish on December 28, 1814. According a National Park Service web site, this is an account of the Henderson's action:

As reconstructed from available evidence, it appears that Henderson was to advance to his front through the woods north of the double ditch. When he reached the place where the fence approached the swamp (about 550 yards away) the colonel would pass around it and attack the right flank of the British column moving along the double ditch. Instead, through some apparent confusion in interpreting his orders, Henderson marched forward at a right oblique, passed the fence and crossed the double ditch near its junction with Rodriguez Canal, and continued in that manner until reaching the first drainage ditch. The movement put him opposite another column of Gibbs's soldiers that had meantime occupied the second ditch, thereby exposing his command to British fire from two directions, that from the group immediately in his front and that from the group he had originally intended to attack. Furthermore, Henderson's presence on that part of the field forced the American artillery to withhold its discharges against the British advance at that point.

Major Tatum described the expedition thusly:

Whether the Colonel properly conceived the order given (verbally) or not, cannot now be ascertained. Certain it is that, instead of advancing under cover, he obliqued to his right and formed his party near the first Ditch and fronting the enemy in the second at least 100 paces to the right of the column he was to have attacked, and immediately in the range of the [supporting] fire intended from the batteries. In this position, he was attacked both in front & flank. This attack was repelled with great bravery but, as may be presumed, with little effect, as his fire was altogether directed against the party covered by the Ditch. The skirmish was short, the Colonel being killed after a few rounds and three of his men cut down nearly at the same time. A retreat was instantly commenced and effected without further loss. One of the men who had fallen in this conflict was discovered to be alive, shortly after the retreat was effected. He arose three times and attempted his escape, on the third attempt he kept on his legs and made towards the lines under a heavy discharge of musketry from the enemy. Major Simpson & Capt. Collins, of the division, discovering this attempt of the wounded man, leaped over the works, crossed the Ditch and ran to his assistance, accompanied by one or two privates. They reached the wounded man and conveyed him to the lines in safety under a most Tremendous discharge from the enemy's line and the column on the flank. It was as great an act of bravery as was witnessed on the lines during the siege.

In fact, Henderson County, Kentucky--the city of Lexington is in the county--was named after this Colonel.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blocking begins ...

Making a lot of 'blocking noises' as NWP used to call them, but with a cast this size there has to be some method to the madness. So far we've blocked two 'shows' - that sounds so much more industrious than having blocked a 'scene' or even an 'Act.' The SMs have been diligent about measuring and laying out the groundplan and somehow the stage seems so much smaller than before - like in comparison to 'Flesh & Blood.' I added a cross-over, but that's only 2'3", so that can't explain it completely. The ramp to invoke the hillside is one reason - but we also had that in 'Sacred Hearts.' (As Greg said this set is 'David's Greatest Hits' - elements from past sets used to create the great outdoors in an intimate indoor space that is the Plaza Black Box Theater. Need to put my order if for tree number & sizes from my 'tree guy' - Nate - every set designer needs a 'tree guy.') We haven't even gotten to a rehearsal with all the actors to see how small and crowded it's going to get when all 23 cast members are on it. Have to block the two 'big' shows this weekend - God's Great Supper (Civil War) & Fire in the Hole (Coal Strike, 1920). Not sure how I'm going to create the feeling of a coal mine in the space yet, but that's this afternoon's challenge. (Wait, Deirdre, can we ass some railroad tracks between Tall Tales & Fire in the Hole to make it more realistic!?!)

Was just reviewing the 'final' draft of the press releases for the show and added references to this & the dramaturgy blog in the releases. Maybe that's a hook, someone would be interested in hooking onto. Whatever it takes. (Why does 'dramaturgy' fail most spell checkers, drives me crazy! Which is not a long journey at this point, granted, but still!)

How we spend our one day a week without rehearsal THIS WEEK!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Link to "Coal Bump" article

Search for Utah Miners Halted Indefinitely Due to "Coal Bump"

Three rescue workers were killed yesterday while searching for the six trapped miners at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. According to news reports, their deaths were caused by a "mountain bump" or as it is called in TKC, a "coal bump." The Boston Metro described a coal bump as "pressure inside the mine that shoots coal from the walls with great force." The search has been put on hold indefinitely while mine-safety experts discuss the options. For the full article, check out this link:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Neck Exercises

Your head and neck region is vulnerable to many different stresses. Here are some exercises I had heard about from a friend and thought to share. The resistance ones are new to me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Utah mine interview on NPR

Today on NPR, All Things Considered at like 5:15, there was this little interview about the Utah miners. This guy was talking about his friend/coworker who was feared dead. Oh my god, I was crying in my car on the way home. They were saying how this guy was always joking, made everybody laugh. They said teasing is a part of "miner culture." I think you have to have pretty thick skin to be a miner. They also said that one guy feared dead is 24 and has only been working for 2 weeks. He said that, at 2 weeks, you still have no real idea what you're doing, you don't have your bearings underground yet.

And they said they wear these brass tags with their SS# attached to their belt. After disasters like the one in Utah, often those brass tags are the only things that are recognizable. It's like the military.

And then this guy that they were interviewing picked up a guitar and said that he and his friend used to jam together and this song is dedicated to him, and then he started playing. And I had to pull over. Wow.
As I was listening to Fire in the Hole last night, I couldn't help but be reminded of Ted Koppel's recent analysis piece on NPR about the similarities to that period in America and the current state of China.

Fire In the Hole and Nietzsche

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that he does not in turn become a monster."

Last night, during the read-thru of Fire In the Hole, there was some discussion as to how Joshua Rowen becomes "corrupt," when he begins as a fighter against his corrupt father, Tommy Rowen. A lot was said in terms of what it means to be "corrupt" and why Tommy and Joshua see things the way they do. This quote seemed to sum it all up for me - I see it as a danger of falling to extremes. Tommy can't see the bigger picture, only his family matters. Joshua sees so much of the bigger picture that he neglects his family when he gets older.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Man Has No Choice When He Wants Everything

There is a stunning song I stumbled upon as I was seeking mood music for the wayplays myspace. It's by a Kentucky artist who's on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou & Cold Mountain soundtracks.

I thought the lyrics seem to echo the emotions of some women in the cycles. Particularly the lines "Man has no choice when he wants everything" and "Why would I want him just to lose him again?" stand out for some reason. Is it the primal call for acquisition and procreation in the face of brutality and base survivalism? Yes, why would those women WANT some of those men? Such a strange dynamic they must have had, strange as in foreign - to me at least. You can catch the actual song which plays as the background music at - so beautiful.

The Scarlet Tide Lyrics
Alison Krauss

When I recall his parting words

Must I accept his fate

Or take myself far from this place

I thought I heard a black bell toll

A little bird did sing

Man has no choice

When he wants everything

We'll rise above the scarlet tide

That trickles down through the mountain

And separates the widow from the bride

Man goes beyond his own decision

Gets caught up in the mechanism

of swindlers who act like kings

And brokers who break everything

The dark of night was swiftly fading

Close to the dawn of day

Why would I want him just to lose him again

We'll rise above the scarlet tide

That trickles down through the mountain

And separates the widow from the bride

We'll rise above the scarlet tide

That trickles down through the mountain

and separates the widow from the bride.

A night of theater games ….

Sunday, 8/12, we had ‘critical mass’ of the cast available for the first time, including the prior read-thrus & the first week of rehearsal, so a ‘get-to-know-you’ evening of theater games was appropriate. (The two boys were absent, unfortunately, but they’ll start to be integrated in this week.) Some basic name association exercises were employed, with most of the staff & crew present joining in for good measure. The divider between the two rooms was removed on Friday for an event, so we had a large space, which was used to good advantage. We did a version of ‘whisper down the lane’ where the initial actor mimed an action and that got passed down all 20 some actors one by one. Watching it morph from peeling a banana to a banana split with whipped cream to an oral sex act to, seemingly, drinking from an elongated flask was a sight to behold. (OK, glad the boys weren’t there for THAT one.) There were some group problem-solving exercises – ‘stones-across-the-creek’ – which were solved in unique ways by the two groups. (Team B definitely taking advantage of Team A’s experience.)

Laura Hitt started her first week in town as our dialect coach and did vocal warm-ups & exercises with the group. Melissa Carubia, music director, was up next, she had her portable keyboard and did musical warm-ups and lead a chorus or two of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Amazing Grace. After the a cappella version of Amazing Grace in Stuff Happens last fall, actors joked that every Zeitgeist fall show needs Amazing Grace now – and not a version that will raise the hair on the back of Deirdre’s neck, a la LeAnn Rimes. The groups sounded good – there are a few vocal ringers – so plans for The Kentucky Cycle: The Musical continue as planned!

Meron lead them through ‘Intro to Stage Combat,’ leading Maureen to comment, “I’m never going to let myself get hit on stage, why am I doing this?!” Because it’s fun, Mo, come on! Earlier in the week, Peter Brown had commented that Theater Games make him physically ill. He never left the room to cough up his cookies, so maybe we’ve conquered his fear of ‘ensemble building.’ Near the end, I showed a ground plan of the set design on the chalkboard. Greg Maraio lead applause after the set presentation commenting, “Well we clapped for everyone else, didn’t we?!” Prav Darling, did costumes fittings to wrap up the night.

On her way out, Melissa Baroni observed, “Thanks for tonight, it was fun!” Here’s hoping there’s more nights of ‘fun’ up ahead!!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Ballad of Jimmy Steele

Lots of good stuff entered since I last visited. Since I don't have internet access at home I'll have to read through a lot of this at my desk during lunch...

I just wanted to share the lyrics of a song written by a dear, late friend of mine. He wrote it for his father who was a miner.

Ballad of Jimmy Steele
By Davy Steele

When I was a young man and just seventeen
I worked doon the pit as a belt-boy
Tae keep the coal clean I shed sweat and some tears
And I did everything I was tell't, boys

Coal minin', coal minin',
My life's been coal minin'

Maist o' the miners I worked wi' were grand
Some o' them treated me rough, boys
Some were born wi' a pick in their hands
And I learned the real meaning o' tough, boys

Coal minin', coal minin',
my life's been coal minin'

Soon I was a collier, and proud o' my work
I was one o' the Preston Links team, boys
Cuttin' a road oot intae the forth
Tae the heart o' the Dysart seam, boys

Coal minin', coal minin',
my life's been coal minin'

A war was soon ragin', all Europe went mad
Hitler had called all our bluff, boys
I could have stayed doon the pit like some o' the lads
But for me that was never enough, boys

So I jined the Seaforths wi' some o' my freens
At fightin' I wanted my chance, boys
The Ladies frae Hell we always had been
But we found oot that Hell was in France, boys

And when it was over, and heroes returned
I stayed in the army some time, boys
But a wife and young family need a permanent hame
So I ended up back doon the mine, boys

Coal minin', coal minin',
my life's been coal minin'

I soon settled doon and though minin' had changed
Picked it up, and then came the hitch, boys
I lost an eye and a finger forbye
And I ended up pushin' a switch, boys

Coal minin', coal minin',
my life's been coal minin'

Maist o' my life I hae spent doon the black
At pit jobs I've done quite a few, boys
At the brushin' and packin' I never was slack
And I aye gie'd a hand tae the new boys

James Steele I was christened, auld Jimmy I'm cried
I've worked as lang as I can, boys
I never made money whatever I tried
Just your everyday, hard-workin' man, boys

Coal minin', coal minin',
my life's been coal minin'
Coal minin', coal minin',
my life's been coal minin'

listen and see what a mine is like, plus a great Kentucky Coal website!

Hi folks:

Here is a CNN video about what the mine in Utah looks like inside (you may need to download the CNN Video software):

Here is a KUTV segment as well:

Here is an NPR segment about what it is like to be in a mine:

Lastly, this website has tons of stuff on Kentucky Coal Mining, including pictures of mining in the 1950's, and pictures of coal towns.

Here is the home page:

Here is the word glossary page:


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"The problem is: Real estate is local, but the money is national."

Tangle of loans feeds foreclosure crisis

Borrowers can't tell where to turn for change in terms

Each month, Stephen and Kim Martinelli sent their mortgage payment to Chase Home Finance, and when they fell behind, it was Chase that launched foreclosure proceedings, with an auction of their Lawrence home scheduled for later this week.

The Martinellis, squeezed by the cost of caring for a disabled son and carrying an adjustable-rate mortgage that boosted their monthly payments by $900 over the past year, pleaded with Chase for a break: for a new payment plan, a lower, more affordable rate, or a delay in the foreclosure, due to hardship.

Chase's answer: "No."

What the Martinellis did not know was that Chase was not calling the shots. Chase merely services the loan, acting as bill collector and administrator.

The mortgage was held by an unknown investor, whom Chase declined to identify and who refused to modify the terms of the Martinellis' loan.

They are among thousands of delinquent borrowers caught in the maze of modern mortgage financing as they desperately try to save their homes. Unlike in the last real estate bust, when local banks and credit unions wrote nearly 80 percent of mortgages in Massachusetts, most home loans issued today pass through a nationwide chain of brokers, lenders, service companies, Wall Street firms, and investors. That makes tracing ownership difficult, if not impossible.

In a rising real estate market, the system worked well, spreading loan risks among various players and expanding credit and homeownership.

But as foreclosures mount, the system is proving ill-suited to respond, analysts said. The reason: Spreading risk muddled responsibility.

"It's perfect deniability," said Patricia McCoy, a University of Connecticut law professor who specializes in financial services. "When there's a problem, each person in line says, 'Don't talk to me, talk to the other person.' "

The system is complicating efforts by Massachusetts officials and housing advocates to defuse the burgeoning foreclosure crisis.

For example, Lawrence Community Works, a nonprofit agency, explored buying some of the vacant foreclosed homes in that city and filling them with graduates of first-time home-buying programs, in an effort to stabilize neighborhoods hit hard by the mortgage crisis.

But Kristen Harol, deputy director of the community group, said her staff can't even figure out whom to call to negotiate purchases of the foreclosed properties.

"We can't get to square one," she said. "The problem is: Real estate is local, but the money is national."

Two decades ago, local institutions primarily originated, serviced, and held mortgages. A borrower struggling to make payments might work out a solution with the same banker who made the loan.

Later, financial markets got involved, seeing an opportunity to turn home mortgages into investments that could be packaged and traded for profit. Lenders bundled mortgages together and sold them to investment banks. The investment banks then sold bonds to investors, promising to pay off them off with cash from mortgage payments made by borrowers. These bonds are known as mortgage-backed securities.

"It's a problem because so many hands touch a mortgage during the process," said Steven L. Antonakes, Massachusetts' commissioner of banks. "The level of responsibility and the ability to effect positive change can vary from relationship to relationship" among the different players.

For example, more than 20 percent of foreclosure actions in Massachusetts in the last year have been initiated on behalf of a unit of Deutsche Bank Group, the German financial services giant, according to, which tracks cases. Deutsche, while listed on the deed as the mortgage holder and technically the legal owner, is a trustee for investors such as hedge funds and other financial firms that hold the securities that are backed by these mortgages.

A spokesman said Deutsche Bank has no economic interest in the mortgages and is not responsible for foreclosures or for selling foreclosed property. Such decisions are made by servicing companies, according to contracts with different investor trusts, the spokesman said.

Moreover, mortgage-backed bonds are usually sold with legally binding commitments that create more obstacles for delinquent borrowers. For example, reductions in loan amounts are often needed to keep people from losing homes, but mortgage-backed bonds are usually sold with prohibitions against forgiving loan principal, except in rare cases, said McCoy, the UConn professor.

"Anyone seeking a loan workout is going to have to face these impediments," McCoy said.

The Martinellis bought their single-family home on Beaconsfield Street in 1994 for $92,000. A decade later, they refinanced for a third time, a $274,000 adjustable-rate mortgage, to finish paying for an addition to accommodate their son, Stephen, who was disabled after being severely injured in a car crash. They had hoped to refinance once again before the interest rate reset in 2006, but couldn't because of credit problems related to their son's medical issues.

They fell behind on loan payments this spring, after two rate adjustments within a year had boosted their monthly payment to $3,033, from $2,100. They began calling Chase in May to find a way to catch up. They even sent a partial payment.

But the check was returned, uncashed, and customer service agents at Chase said nothing could be done because foreclosure was already underway. An auction of their home is scheduled for Thursday.

The couple turned to an advocacy group, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, where a loan counselor asked Chase to reduce the interest rate. In July, Chase said the unnamed investor who held the mortgage would not modify the loan.

It was then that the Martinellis learned someone other than Chase held their mortgage.

"It made us feel more than powerless," Martinelli said in a telephone interview. "It made us feel lifeless. It sucked all the life out of us."

But on Friday, after the Globe contacted Chase about the Martinellis, the couple learned the investor who holds their loan had agreed to stop foreclosure proceedings and reduce the rate to the original 7.2 percent. A Chase spokeswoman said news media inquiries have "no bearing on the decisions that are made."

Kim Martinelli said she was relieved, but is still nervous as she awaits written confirmation.

"The really scariest part is what would I do with my son if they did auction my house," she said. "My heart just breaks at the thought of having to put him in a nursing home."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Harlon County, Kentucky

Just came across this documentary on a 1974 coal strike in Kentucky. I recommend checking it out, it's a pretty good movie

Thursday, July 26, 2007

native and non-native jurisidction and rape today


All Things Considered, July 26, 2007 · At 14, Bonnie, a Cherokee Indian, needed a ride home. She grew up near the small city of Talequah, on the eastern side of Oklahoma. A woman she knew from town offered her a ride, instructing Bonnie to wait at her house.

The woman's husband was home, drinking with four of his friends.

"I was in the other room, and they came in and threw me on the bed," Bonnie said. "And they all held me down."

Bonnie never reported the rape. She says she had been told many times by her mother and other relatives that nobody was going to take a case involving an Indian girl getting raped.

"I just didn't figure anyone would believe me — a child against five white men," Bonnie said.

In the years that followed, Bonnie worked as a bartender and struggled to put the incident behind her. She said she would sometimes catch men bragging about similar things they said they had done.

"I've even heard a couple of white men just through the years talking about it, but I never say nothing," Bonnie said.

'Almost a Lawless Community'

Chickasaw Tribal Police Chief Jason O'Neal has heard these stories, too. One day recently at the Chickasaw police headquarters, a call came in from a Native American woman who said she had been raped and didn't know where she was.

Standing in the doorway of the command center, O'Neal looked antsy.

"I know they're working on it — to locate her position and see if everything is OK," he said.

The identity of the woman and her attacker — and especially, her exact location — mean everything to O'Neal. If the woman is Indian on Indian land with an Indian attacker, he can help her. If not, there's often little he can do – and he says that's usually the case. According to a Justice Department report, 80 percent of Indian victims describe their attackers at non-native.

"Many of the criminals know Indian lands are almost a lawless community, where they can do whatever they want," O'Neal said.

In this case on this day, the woman turns up outside of tribal land, which means he cannot intervene and won't know what happened to her.

Situations like this are excruciating for O'Neal and tribal leaders, who are trying desperately to stop sexual assaults after what they say has been years of neglect by federal officials.

Thanks to casino money, the Chickasaws have one of the most well-funded, highly equipped police departments in the state. They have their own emergency command center, as well as more training and officers than most of the surrounding sheriff's departments.

What they don't have, however, is the power to arrest the men raping women on Chickasaw land.

The Complicated Laws on Indian Land

At a gas station just outside Ada, Okla., O'Neal stood next to the ice machine as he tried to explain the intricacies of the law on Indian land.

Beneath the gas pumps and mini-mart is land that has belonged to the Chickasaw people for more than a century.

If a Native American man walks into the mini-mart and steals a carton of cigarettes, O'Neal can arrest him. If a non-native man commits the same crime, O'Neal would let him go and forward a report to the U.S. attorney's office.

When asked what happens to those reports, O'Neal replied, "Well, I really couldn't tell you. I don't think I've ever been called back on one of them."

Tribal police cannot charge non-Indians with a crime on tribal land — only the U.S. attorney's Office can. Tribal leaders say that in too many cases, no charges are filed at all.

But for O'Neal, the layout of the land itself is a problem. Indian land in Oklahoma is a patchwork quilt. The gas station, for example, is tribal land, but the highway that runs adjacent to it belongs to the state. Across the street is the entrance to town, and the building next door is not tribal property.

Unprosecuted Sexual Assaults

The people who pay the biggest price for this are often Native American women, who are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other women. In fact, one Justice Department study found one in three Indian women will be raped in her lifetime. Tribal officials say that's because the assaults often go unreported, uninvestigated and unprosecuted.

On many rural reservations, there are often few Bureau of Indian Affairs police officers. But in Oklahoma, many tribes have their own police departments. The law itself is what prevents them from stopping the perpetrators, and without enforcement, many women don't come forward.

To work around this, tribal police can partner with neighboring police departments, but some, like one sheriff's office near Ada, won't sign on, O'Neal said.

"The sheriff had told his deputies that he didn't care if they [his deputies] were lying on the side of the road bleeding to death, they were not to call on our agency to help them," he said. "And you know what, that just goes back to plain old racism. There's nothing else to explain that."

Several sheriffs interviewed by NPR openly questioned the competence of tribal police departments, but they deny allegations of racism. Rather, they say, they don't want to share law-enforcement powers with officers who don't report to them.

An Inability to Punish

Even when tribal police get past their limited powers and land issues and haul someone into court, the inability of the tribes to exact a punishment goes right up the chain.

At the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in central Oklahoma, the tribe has built a courthouse like any other, equipped with benches and a jury box fashioned from wood.

The only people sitting in the defendant's chair, however, are Native Americans. Tribal prosecutors like David Hall are only allowed to handle misdemeanors, like public intoxication, speeding and shoplifting.

"The fact that I am not allowed to prosecute felonies that occur on tribal land irritates me. It angers me. I don't understand that," he said.

Hall said that he can't get federal prosecutors to take the cases he's not allowed to try, including two recent rape cases across the street: one in the parking lot at the casino, and one in the parking lot at the supermarket.

Renee Brewer, who works at the courthouse as a victim's advocate, remembers a case from a year ago. A woman who had been assaulted called the police and told them that her attacker was still hiding in her closet.

"I get there, and there are four different law-enforcement agencies on the front lawn with the victim, arguing, 'Well this is your case, you have jurisdiction of this.' You could go on and on with scenarios," Brewer said. "Then you wonder why these cases are not getting prosecuted — because the United States government made it as difficult as possible for us to handle our own prosecutions on our own land."

Oklahoma U.S. Attorney John Richter said he'll take any sexual assault case from a reservation that he can.

"I'm open for business, willing to take more," he said. "I'm not aware of serious cases that have not been investigated in the western district of Oklahoma. Where we hear about it, we are firmly committed."

But he said that there's no way to know how many Native American rape or assault cases they've tried or declined. The cases are brought to them by the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Neither agency's Oklahoma office would grant NPR's request for an interview.

If cases are declined, Richter said, it's because many rapes are inherently difficult to try, and federal courts place a high burden on prosecutors for evidence.

"We have to live in the real world," he explained. "Just because a case is not brought, doesn't mean we don't wish a case could be brought."

But federal law-enforcement officials who spoke to NPR believe that U.S. attorneys find the sexual assault cases insignificant compared to their usual work — terrorism, organized crime, drugs, racketeering.

Seeking Comfort in Tradition

A 2003 report from the Justice Department found that U.S. attorneys take fewer cases from the BIA than from almost any other federal law-enforcement agency — a bitter reality for women on the reservations.

Without hope of punishment for their attackers, many women turn within, seeking comfort in tradition, like a ritual called a Sweat Lodge.

At sunset on a recent night in northern Oklahoma, just outside the Otoe-Missouria Indian reservation, Juskwa Burnett hosts a healing ceremony for women who have been victims of sexual assault.

As a fire burns over a pile of large rocks, a prayer man welcomes dead ancestors. The guests are usually women whom Burnett counsels at the community center.

As the ceremony gets underway, guests enter a dome-like structure made of willow branches and covered in blankets. Burnett fills a pipe with tobacco.

The guests spend the next several hours praying, singing and talking about what has happened to them. Afterwards, they head to nearby showers, as an honored man whose Indian name means Little Bear waits for the fire to die.

Little Bear's job in the dome is to douse the rocks to create steam. Night after night, he hears the stories women tell about being sexually assaulted.

"It's a burden when you hear about all these prayer requests, all these things that people are praying about, crying about, things that happened to them sexually," he said. "Sometimes it makes it hard to go to sleep at night."

For Little Bear, the issue is personal, too. When she was just a teenager, his sister was raped on the side of the road by a man in a passing car.

"She was walking home, and a guy raped my sister in the back of a car. Just left her in a ditch," he said. "That's the worst I've encountered with, you know, not even half a mile from our home — almost made it home."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

After The First Read Thru

Thinking about doing this show is exhausting, absolutely exhausting. And thinking of giving away my life for the period of time we will be in performance is also exhausting. I already miss those seven weekends... But our first read thru was last night and David's enthusiasm for this alone put all of that out of my head. Our cast is solid -- I look forward to actually talking to more of you -- and just as importantly (if not more), our crew is solid. So we're off and running, in spite of the conflicts. Our Kentucky Derby of The Kentucky Cycle has begun!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Welcome to The Kentucky Cycle Community Blog!

Zeitgeist and Way are making blogging about TKC a community affair! This is a blog that anyone on the cast or crew could add to at anytime. It's a running commentary from multiple fronts about the development process for the show. Welcome!