I’ve been to theater in the round but, last night I experienced something different; theater in the ground; burial ground that is. Last night I attend a production of the Spoon River Project at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery located in Brooklyn, New York.
It was the perfect setting for the staging of the collection of poetic epitaphs from Edgar Lee Masters book; Spoon River Anthology. When entering Green–Wood; you leave a busy and buzzing 5th avenue, to pass through, soaring Victorian Gothic Revival, gates into a quiet place of eternal rest for over 500,000 people. You cannot help but connect with your own mortality in a cemetery; and that mental and emotional connection absolutely enhanced my response to the work.
The play was presented among the tombstones and monuments. As the sky darkened lanterns were lit and in silence the 11 actors, in period costumes, appeared from the shadows and made their way to a small clearing. These actors embodied more than 30 characters; the former residents now the dearly (and not so dearly) departed of the small town of Spoon River. Each was called out and in turn they dramatically recited a poem of their life and death. These monologues were interspersed with traditional hymns, folk songs and country dancing (accompanied by a trio of musicians); which prevented the play from feeling stilted and stagnant.
Their stories were mostly tragic; stories of thwarted ambitions, conformity that kills the spirit, abusive relationships, and secretes taken to the grave. Not what one usually wants to think about on a beautiful summer evening with a glorious full moon in the sky but, the play certainly made me appreciate being alive and makes me want to do what I can to ensure that my poetic epitaph reads like a romantic poem or perhaps a limerick.