Living in Jonesborough

Panoramic view of the full theatre, with cast rehearsing the final scene of the show. (Apologies for the size of this image - click on it for a better picture)

I’ve been in Jonesborough for just over two weeks now, but it took a trip to Florida for Passover for me to realize just how much I’ve been learning. Nothing like having people outside of the experience asking you questions about it constantly to get you thinking!

For today, I’m going to fill you in on life in Jonesborough and tell you a little more about the methodology of EPIC International.  EPIC started working here just over a year ago, hosting a series of story circles in which they invited different community groups (making sure they had a balanced representation of the population) to share their stories.  They also performed interviews with a number of community members.  Once they had a fairly large collection of stories, they went through them and began to notice patterns, pulling out stories on themes that got mentioned frequently, and stories that had particular poignancy or humor – in Jonesborough’s case: segregation, civil war, trains, the old candy store, movies at the old Jackson Theatre, etc.  They search for the themes that tie this community together, and build their play around those themes. I’ll come back to this idea in my next post.

Once they have a good collection of stories, and an understanding of key themes, Jules (the playwright) puts together a script.  They then take the script back to the community and hold a public reading to get feedback from which they re-write the script, and bring it back once again for final approval.  Once they have the script (and I will not call it the final script, because it continues to be adapted as we work through rehearsals), they hold auditions, inviting anyone from the town to participate.  Anyone who auditions is cast, and every role is doubled.  And so they begin.

This particular production is titled “I Am Home,” and it explores (among other things) the key idea of what it means to be home, and shares the stories of all the different people who call Jonesborough home.  The second scene is titled “Living in Jonesborough,” and it is basically a series of statements from different people about what it means to them to live here.  So let me share with you some of the things that I have observed, over the last two weeks, of what it means to be living in Jonesborough.

–       Hearing the regular sounds of the train whistle blowing through town as mere background noise.

–       Being surrounded by people you know, who know you and care about you.

–       Understanding that domestic turkeys can’t fly, and should never be tossed off the roof of tall buildings (long story… maybe I’ll tell it to you one day).

–       Being an illegal immigrant and working long, hard hours in the tomato or strawberry fields, caring for your family and fearing deportation.

–       De-segregating schools two years before the federal government, because one little black boy wanted to go school with his friends from his neighborhood, and his father refused to tell him that segregation was “just that way.”

–       Being a pioneer.

–       Living in the oldest city in Tennessee!

What does home mean to you?


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