In 2010 I finished writing my first play, Lillian Smith: Being Heard. In it, I discuss the life of the white, southern American writer, Lillian E. Smith (1897-1966), who devoted her writing career to speaking against segregation + the “Southern Traditions” of racism + gender roles.
Lillian Smith: Being Heard is about segregation–not merely the black/white segregation that comes to mind when we hear the word, but who we as individuals choose to segregate ourselves from. It concludes that, while we have come a long way towards tolerance and acceptance since the Civil Rights Movement, we still have a long way to go.
As I was getting ready to present my play for the first time at Dixon Place in April 2010, I came across information for the Lillian E. Smith Center for Creative Arts. Each summer the LES Center hosts a residency program for writers + artists on the Georgia mountain land that Lillian spent most of her life living + writing. I contacted Nancy Smith Fichter, Lillian’s niece + the head of the center, with information about my piece + an application for residency.
I knew that it would give me invaluable information to stay on Lil’s land + to meet a member of Lil’s family. After I presented my piece to the Lillian E. Smith Foundation, Nancy and the Foundation Board gave me their full support for the further production of Lillian Smith: Being Heard! I have produced it twice since + will arrange a tour once I am back Stateside from Taiwan. (Then I’ll have two plays to shop around!)
I have been coming down to Clayton, GA for the past 3 years for residencies + I am already sad that I will miss next summer’s trip by virtue of being in Taiwan!
It’s incredible for me to think that I have been working on getting to Taiwan for almost a year and a half! During last summer’s residency, I spent much of my time honing my ideas for what I wanted to accomplish in Taipei + drafting a Fulbright Application. This year my project has been established + I have spent my days on the porch reading academic texts about Taiwan’s history + cultural influences, researching + applying for grants, solidifying my budget + otherwise, trying to relax. (Believe me, it is a lot more interesting than it sounds…at least to me!)
Artistically, I got to read some of Lil’s words from her book The Journey (currently out of print) at a wine-tasting fundraiser for the LES Center, hosted by Beechwood Inn. I also participated in a read-thru of the adaptation that my dad is working on of the play version of Strange Fruit, the novel Lil is best known for.
It is our last night here this summer + I’m already looking forward to coming back in 2014! To give myself the illusion of spending a little more time here, my next post will include pictures + tales from our excursions off of Old Screamer Mountain! Here’s a teaser:
Hell nearly froze over last year when my friend Adam and I ordered the “Jumbo Margaritas” at La Cabana… Little did we know they would be the size of our faces! So, in Fogarty fashion, my dad and I decided order a couple when we arrived in Clayton this year:
+ a Georgia trip ain’t complete without some Outkast.