Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In the 70s I was in Community College in Pasadena California, studying drama, planning to be a movie star.  (Yea…that didn’t happen.)  I was part of a small group of like minded individuals, male and female, who were seeking to make “acting” their future livelihood.  Our Drama teacher, Bruce Gill, turned our group onto a collection of short stories called Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.  It was copyright 1914……1914!  It was (and is) basically a collection of epitaphs of the people who lived and died in the town of Spoon River.  Eight of us adapted the book into a presentation that was classified as an “Oral Interpretation” of the work and took it on the road, performing in various collegiate speech tournaments.  We won a few of these contests with our combination of dramatizing Master’s free form poems, guitar music and song.  This was very edgy in the 70s, kind of a carryover from the beatnick 60s.  We were also disqualified from a few tournaments because some judges believed our presentation was more performance than pure oral interpretation of the written words.  We didn’t care, we truly were in love with the material and we reveled in the joy of performing it.  The epitaphs were emotionally moving, humorous and meaningful.  Impressionable college students ate it up with…well….with a spoon.  The thing is that the work has transcended the passage of time.  The short stories are just as relevant today as they were in 1914 when they were written, in 1972 when they were adapted by talented teenagers and today when the world is moving at a speed Masters, who passed away himself in 1950, could never have imagined. 
I pulled the book off the shelf the other day.  The 40 year old pages are yellow and brittle.  The $1.50 price tag, a badge of its age.  I think back on those times and am filled with satisfaction for the creative endeavors we undertook, proud of what we achieved in our efforts, and a strong affection for the group of boys and girls I was privileged enough to collaborate with.

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