The University of South Florida production of Marcus Gardley’s acclaimed play “The road weeps, the well runs dry” opens in Theater 2 at the Tampa campus April. 3-13.
The work focuses on a community of Seminoles of African and Native American heritage that have migrated from Florida to Okla. to incorporate America’s first all-black town in Wewoka, Okla. But when the well water runs dry in this town, the identity and faith of the self-proclaimed Freedmen are put to the test.
The first act of “The road weeps, the well runs dry,” a work based on historical fact, takes place before the Civil War in Wewoka while the second act follows the war.
USF in Tampa is one of a few select theaters in the entire country to present “The road weeps, the well runs dry.”
“This is an amazing project – Launching New Plays – spearheaded by the Lark Play Development Center in New York,” said Amanda Clark, Marketing Coordinator at the USF School of Theater and Dance. “The Lark received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to take three plays from three playwrights that resonated with issues that we struggle with and themes that were worthy of being talked about on a national stage.”
Clark noted that the theaters were chosen by the Lark and includes the Perseverance in Alaska, the Pillsbury House in Minnesota, the Los Angeles Theatre Center in California and the University of South Florida in Florida.
“We met, we discussed and talked about the themes of this play and how to tackle it,” Clark explained. “Then our community of theaters reached out into their own hometown communities and invited people to come and hear this beautiful play and discuss identity, history, family, and religion. From out of those hometown discussions grew our community partners, those who helped us and supported this project along the way. And our original theatrical community flew all over the county to watch each other’s productions and talk about how this project has touched each place.”
USF will host many guest artists and storytellers before each production to enrich the audience’s experience, along with post-performance discussions to talk about the play. Some members of these panels include Bobby Henry (Seminole Tribe Respected Elder of the Tampa Community), Herbert Jim (Seminole Tribe Storyteller and Cultural Coordinator for the Tampa Community) and Sybil Barnes, African American Florida storyteller.
Marcus Gardley, a poet-playwright, is a teacher and specifically requested that a university be one of the partners in this cycle, and USF is proud to have filled that role, Clark said. Gardley was awarded the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels award for Mid-Career Playwright. Another of his plays, “Every Tongue Confess,” was nominated for the Steinberg New Play Award, the Charles MacArthur Award and was a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. “The road weeps, the well runs dry” is the second installment in a trilogy about the migration of black Seminoles.
USF Professor Fanni Green, Director
USF professor Fanni Green, the play’s director, has said that the “beauty and the opportunity of directing ‘the road weeps, the well runs dry’ with our students is about transformation, education and community. We teach that acting is transformation – slipping into the skins of others; our teaching practice is that the task of re-creating human experience is to educate ourselves about the truths of others. Of which we become joint heirs to building community.”
St. Pete native Green, who is a playwright herself, has had her works “Tillers” and “The Gilded Sixpence” produced at the New York Theatre Workshop and the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York.
“Our production is a cast of local actors, student and professional actors,” Clark said. “Perri Gaffney, who plays Half George, was in the original production in Alaska and we brought her in to play Half George in our production as well!”
Clark said that the play is based in magical realism and feels it is a very accessible, human story about family and love at its heart.
“These people have walked the Trail of Tears to found a town of their own,” she explained. “And like all communities there are first loves and old grudges and fighting and laughing and children being born – and singing. At its heart, there are two families within this community whose patriarchs are entangled and at odds. Their children find each other and fall in love and all events lead from there.”
For box office hours, location and other ticketing information visit boxoffice.arts.usf.edu or call (813) 974-2323.