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October 22, 2001

Trestle part of citywide Wallace festival

By Deb Hammacher


Theater Emory spearheads the citywide Naomi Wallace Festival with an Oct. 24–Nov. 10 production of The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, a highlight of the 1998 Humana Festival of New American Plays.

A dozen local companies are joining forces to celebrate the work of the emerging American playwright through mid-November, with additional full productions of plays by Synchronicity Performance Group and PushPush Theater, and fully produced solo pieces by Out of Hand, Rogue Planet and Actor’s Express.

Also as part of the festival, Wallace and Theater Emory Artistic Producing Director Vincent Murphy will hold an unscripted conversation about her works at 8:15 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22 in the Jones Room of Woodruff Library. The dialogue will be complemented by readings of Wallace’s poetry by Theatrical Outfit’s Tom Key, and readings from other Wallace works by actors from some of the participating companies.

The film Lawn Dogs, for which Wallace wrote the screenplay, will be shown at 4 p.m., Oct. 23 in 205 White Hall. The film was favorably received on the festival circuit but has not been released in the United States. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, call 404-727-5050.

History, politics and the resilience of the human spirit are common themes throughout Wallace’s work, and Trestle is no different. Through stylized, sensual and lyrical dialogue, Wallace shows a dark side of the American dream as 1930s teenagers Pace Creagin and Dalton Chance and their parents struggle to change the hand that society has dealt them.

“For all the characters, there is the theme of transformation,” Wallace said. “They are trying to change who they are, in order to survive, in order to maintain their humanity. This is about people refusing to be defeated, about people resisting the chipping away of their spirits and bodies.”

It’s important for audiences to remember the characters’ circumstances, according to Murphy. “These were people dealing with tough economic times,” she said. “In a contemporary way, if we know a family is going through a divorce, we assume it’s a sad situation—but we don’t let that situation define who they are. The people in Trestle use the slings and arrows to climb higher. They aren’t being defeated by circumstance.”

Emory student Rachel Garner plays Pace Creagin, the strong-willed, 17-year-old girl who dares 15-year-old Dalton Chance to join her in playing chicken with the 7:10 train. Chance is played by Oxford student Christopher DesRoches. The cast is rounded out with noted actors Janice Akers as Dalton’s mother, Gin; Tim McDonough as Dalton’s out-of-work father, Pace; and Bart Hansard as Chas, the father of a boy killed by the train before this story begins.

Set and costume design are by Leslie Taylor. Lighting and sound design are by Judy Zanotti, and the composer is, the pseudonym for an Emory College professor.

So from all of Wallace’s works, why pick The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek? According to Murphy, he chose the play for its depth and theatricality.

“There are so many places to go in this play as an audience person and director,” Murphy said. “There are few plays that do that, that allow you to make choices and go deeper. For example, the surprise of this play is that it actually is a double love story. If you ask in your life, ‘What does love cost?’ Naomi gives you four or five places you can take that. It’s almost like the script is a living organism. Secondly, I think Naomi’s great light is her ability to show us what really matters.”

Despite receiving a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1999, Wallace is relatively unknown in the United States, yet has found acclaim in Britain. A native of Kentucky, she now divides her time between her home state and the English countryside. She has received several commissions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, including the acclaimed Slaughter City and her work-in-progress, The Inland Sea (previously titled “Fugitive Cant,” part of Theater Emory’s 2001 Brave New Works).

“I think Naomi Wallace is potentially the most important emerging writer, who happens to also be from the South, yet no one knows who she is,” Murphy said. “She is one of the very few writers in this country who will even admit that class is an issue. Naomi has a magician’s sense of the theatrical; this defines her difference as a playwright.”

Tickets for Trestle are $15 general admission, $7 for students. Showtimes vary. For more information on Trestle or the Oct. 23 showing of Lawn Dogs, call 404-727-5050.


Back to Emory Report October 22, 2001