How to Make a Rope Swing
by Shawn Fisher
directed by Adrianne Moore
originally produced at Salt Lake Acting Company ,
Salt Lake, UT.
February 6, 2013
through March 3, 2013
The Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) will present the world premiere production of How to Make a Rope Swing, a new play by Shawn Fisher, directed by Adrianne Moore. How to Make a Rope Swing was inspired by a 300-year-old, scarred oak tree in rural New Jersey. The tree’s trauma transports the audience for a journey that personalizes racial prejudice and its consequences. The story features Arthur ‘Bo’ Wells, the longest-employed African American employee of Oakbranch Public Schools, and Mrs. Dolores Wright, a wealthy benefactress and former hard-nosed teacher and principal of 30 years. While snowed-in at a schoolhouse being prepared for demolition, the two share very different memories of the early 1950s. Arthur’s wife, the first African American teacher at Oakbranch, had been a teaching assistant to Mrs. Wright during the early stages of race integration in American schools. ‘Bo’ and Mrs. Wright’s conversation unearths the deception of a racial turmoil that may dissipate over time, but never truly heals. Their discussion is wrought with reflection, angst, and ultimately, redemption. Examining the tenuous period of civil emancipation in the U.S., How to Make a Rope Swing provokes a reflection of who we are and who we once were.
We were introduced to Shawn Fisher’s work through Adrianne Moore, his colleague on the faculty of Utah State University and a frequent director and dialect coach at the Salt Lake Acting Company. We read his play Do Not Hit Golf Balls Into Mexico in April 2011 and decided to include it in our Fearless Fringe Festival that August. The play illuminated and humanized immigration and allowed us to feel the characters’ pain and joy. It became one of the most popular features of the Fringe Festival.
Last season, we offered Shawn a slot in our New Play Sounding Series. He brought us How to Make a Rope Swing, and we loved the story: again, we felt allowed to become part of his characters’ world, and we were captivated by his ability to personalize both prejudice and its consequences. Shawn illuminates broad topics in his writing, honoring the individuals behind issues that often become generalizations.
We believe in Shawn Fisher’s unique voice, and we are dedicated to helping develop his play to its fullest potential in preparation for the premiere in February. And when the curtain falls on the last performance, we will continue to work with Shawn to ensure the play has a long life beyond our stage. It will be an honor to present the world premiere of How to Make a Rope Swing, and to connect to our community through the themes it raises and the people whose lives they touch.
SLAC is indebted to the Edgerton Foundation, whose assistance provided the underwriting for a portion of the rehearsal period. As a recipient of this award we were able to have one additional week of rehearsal. This additional week provided necessary time for script exploration and minor development, to delve into the rich historical background of the play, and to help the actors meet the significant demands of the script. Sometimes the only way to understand the effectiveness of particular moments in the play is to see it in action. The Edgerton Foundation has given us the unique opportunity to do this. We thank the Edgerton Foundation; its generosity is essential in giving dynamic playwrights the resources and support they need to be successful.
Salt Lake Acting Company is committed to being a major player in the national theatre field by nurturing the work of living playwrights and the development, production and the continued life of their plays. The Edgerton Foundation gives plays in development extended rehearsal period for the entire creative team, including the playwrights.
Director: Adrianne Moore
Set Design: Keven Myhre
Lighting Design: Jesse Portillo
Sound Design: Josh Martin
Costume Design: Kevin Alberts
Production Stage Manager Janice Jenson
Executive Producers: Cynthia Fleming & Keven Myhre
Cast: Lucas Bybee, Jayne Luke, Glenn Turner