“The purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature,” -- Hamlet said in William Shakespeare's famous play.
“That’s what we as artists are trying to do,” said David Poole, artistic director of The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble. “We’re always holding up that mirror as a reflection of who our audiences and viewers are, and I’m determined more than anything to speak for those voices that are not necessarily the ones that are regularly featured.”
Beginning Sept. 13, The Collective Face in partnership with the Savannah State University Drama Group, Players by the Sea, will debut their latest production “Dark of The Moon,” a classic 1940’s Appalachian folk tale play set in the same time and place it was written, a rural part of western North Carolina.
After a witch boy named John falls in love with a human woman named Barbara Allen, he seeks help to gain a human form from the magical conjure people, but only under the condition that the couple wed and remain faithful for a full year.
After besting his rival and winning the hand of Barbara Allen, the two are wed, but, as with most folk tales, things are not as simple as they first appear. When John suddenly becomes the town outcast the young lovers are torn apart by members of their community.
The original concept for the play comes from the folk ballad “Barbara Allen,” a song dating as far back as late 17th Century Europe. Poole explained, “As Appalachia became inhabited by a lot of Scott-Irish, those famous folk tales and songs made their way across from England and Europe and were reborn in Appalachia creating a historical basis for a lot of American bluegrass music.
“Because folk music is such an integral part of the Appalachian resident’s lives, we wanted the music featured in the play to shows that,” Poole explained. “So there are folk ballads and Appalachian bluegrass music as well as fiddle playing all throughout the show. We have a five-piece band in the middle of the play made up of actor-musicians who play the guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, etc.”
“Since its debut on Broadway in 1945, ‘Dark of the Moon’ was the most produced play by community theatre’s, universities and high schools up until the 1980s,” Poole explained. “I think the play's popularity stems from its message about the persecution of the other. All of us have been the other or outsider in some shape or form and this play is all about how the outsider meshes with a society where no-one trusts them.
“The story was written prior to WWII so it was very pertinent to the situation in Germany as well as the internment camps in the United States,” Poole continued. “Throughout the play John tries to fit into this society and become human while at the same time discovering what that actually means, so for me, it’s really an allegory to the times it was produced in.
“What I hope to do with my theatre is provoke a kitchen table discussion, someone may hate or even walk out of my play but, most often, that person will remember that show and at the kitchen table at breakfast the next day they say ‘That really pissed me off,’ or ‘that was the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen.’
“That’s what I hope to do with my theatre, provoke discussion because I think that’s what theatre needs to do. Theatre can entertain and it should entertain but we should also use it as a way of discussing social and political issues that are happening right now.”