NC artists Mike Wiley & Laurelyn Dossett have teamed up with the Playmakers Repertory Company to produce a new show focusing on NC history through the eyes of one small town. Come backstage with us as we learn just how the production comes to life.
♪ No work for the working man
♪ Just one more empty mill
♪ Hard times in Rockingham
♪ Hard times harder
- [Man] The song came before anything else years ago.
♪ The crows are in the kitchen
♪ The wolves are at the door
♪ My father's land of Eden is paradise no more ♪
- [Woman] This song called Leaving Eden
that I wrote after they closed
the last textile mill in Eden, North Carolina.
♪ And I can't tell my daughters ♪
♪ All the things that I'm scared of. ♪
- [Woman] It was the last place in town that had jobs.
What are those people gonna do?
♪ I am not afraid of that bright glory up above ♪
♪ 'Cause dying is just another way ♪
♪ To leave the ones you love
♪ The ones you love
- [Woman] Joe Hodge heard it who is the former
artistic director here had this idea
of doing a project about what happens
to rural North Carolina towns
when they lost industry or as they change,
and I got involved in that years ago,
and then Mike came on as the playwright.
I stopped looking for fair when they started
calling me a refuge in my own backyard.
- Mike really wanted to talk not only about our past,
but to really put those in conversation
with immigrant stories of today.
- People with dark skin are always
at a disadvantage in America,
so we decide whether it is an impediment or an advantage.
I knew that the focus needed to go to towns
that were having an influx of Latin X population.
Some were welcoming them into the communities
while others, many, were pushing them out.
- This morning a woman in the Wal-Mart
told me to speak American or go home.
I told them Mexico's part of America and I am home.
- Really wanted to explore themes
that we were dealing with now.
Where we're going, where we're headed, and where we've been.
- [Vivienne] This is truly home grown.
We're building it with our company,
Laurelyn and Mike from the ground up.
- We established the world of the play.
Now the question is does everything work
in the world of the play?
Does everything work together?
It's all of those things that you spend time on,
and then there's all these eyes on the script, right.
All these eyes on your baby.
You hope that everything makes sense.
Hearing it come out of someone's mouth for the first time,
sometimes I'm like ugh and sometimes it's like,
that's exactly how I heard it in my head.
- Sid, there are three truths.
Your truth, my truth, and the truth,
and I pray that yours wins out.
- That person is living in that character's skin,
and may say, you know, I don't think
my character would say this.
I think my character would actually
say this at this moment.
- Okay, thank you guys.
- Let's cut this and move it here.
So it'll skip from top of 55 to the top of 60.
It's just that malleable.
- It's a big change.
- But it has to be.
- [Woman] In the midst of all the others.
- Yes, yes, exactly.
- I am standing in front of our back wall.
This is the backdrop of the entire set,
and so it's what you'll see no matter where you are.
It's made of a corrugated metal.
Created to look like it's old and rusty.
A lot of work is involved in making
something new look very old.
So this is a scale model of what is going to be
a very large billboard in the show.
Has to do with immigration and people who are
against people coming into North Carolina,
so the significance of the word full being
stamped across it as if to say people aren't welcome here.
- This would be the design collage board for Leaving Eden.
So everything you see here provide an atmosphere,
an example of attitude or style or silhouette
that we're trying to achieve.
This is set in a little town in North Carolina
that has a different feel to it
than a little town in Iowa or a little town in New York.
So we wanted to capture that feel about it,
and also place them in a time period.
Most of which are played by a smaller group of actors
who are doubling between the 1933 character
and a 2016 character.
Sometimes it's not just a matter of it fitting well,
but sometimes fitting right.
Maybe that means it is actually ill fitting,
but it's ill fitting in like a very purposeful way,
which is almost harder to do
to make something fit just right.
- To hell with her.
- Leaving Eden's set in Gabe's Junk Emporium,
so we are building a junk shop.
Basically what it means when you say a prop
is anywhere from set dressing to hand props.
If you took a house and you turned it upside down
and shook it, anything that fell out, that's a prop.
- He's gonna skateboard down.
You can be cleaning.
- [Andrea] The props actually help tell the story.
Even if they're not used,
we're helping establish that location,
and then the hand props that are actors use.
- Let me get one of them Newport's, Dre.
- [Andrea] Help express who this character actually is.
- Word and the way, boys.
The word and the way.
- [Actor] That's the wrong way, son.
- Yeah, well how ya grandmama doing?
How ya mama doing?
- That'll be in the next thing.
- Originally the story was going
to take place in the mountains,
somewhere in the early evolution,
it switched to the south east.
I loved listening to Laurelyn talk about,
well, that changes everything musically.
- A lot of my writing comes out of the landscape
and out of the floor and fauna of any particular region,
and just how the light hits things,
and how does the land affect the people,
and their history there.
♪ And you gotta run to the river ♪
♪ You gotta run, run, run
♪ The boat man is waiting
♪ You gotta run
♪ Mothers, fathers
♪ Wayward daughters, wayward sons ♪
♪ Get on down to the river
♪ You gotta run to the river
♪ You gotta run, run, run
- In the same way that this town is on a river, right,
and the river's always flowing, music is always going,
and sometimes it's a roar.
Sometimes it's a trickle, but it's still going.
- And while it is a fictional story,
it's coming out of so much truth about our state,
and our society that it's been
real important to get it right.
♪ Who can stop the wind
♪ Who can stop the sick
♪ What can change the tide
♪ What can change your mind
♪ When can hatred end
♪ When can we begin
♪ Why do we can change
♪ Why do we not change
- This is what my brain looks like.
I'm hopeful that people will see it,
and want to change where we are.
It looks fantastic.
Tomorrow is what we make it.
And it's not about sitting back,
and letting the process work itself out.
It's about leaning forward, leaning into it and pushing,
and I hope that people will walk away
knowing I can't just not do anything.
Gotta do something.
These folks did.