Published on October 28th, 2014 | by Nature Humphries2
Spirits of Yoknapatawpha County at The Powerhouse: Faulkner Characters Come to Life
Oxford, Miss. (TLV) – Within the spirit of Oxford, Mississippi, lives another realm, a fictional place brought to life in the many works of William Faulkner. You could call it Oxford’s alter ego. Yoknapatawpha County, with her rich history and colorful residents, is just as much a part of Oxford tradition as Rowan Oak, the Courthouse Square, and the historic Cedar Oaks Heritage Home.
With this in mind, Cedar Oaks Guild president and Faulkner scholar Dr. Dianne Fergusson has created this year’s Spirits of Oxford production with a new literary twist.
“This year is the five-year anniversary, so I suggested that we do something different and do Faulkner characters,” Fergusson said. “We’re in the perfect place to do it—we are Yoknapatawpha County—so why not do the Spirits of Yoknapatawpha County?”
In the past, the Oxford Spirits have portrayed local historical figures and notable citizens of Oxford, and the biennial event took place for the past four productions in Saint Peter’s Cemetery. This year, the cast will perform at The Powerhouse.
“This changes the dynamics of the production quite a bit because now we can use light and music,” Fergusson said. “And we’re going to use a scrim so we’ll be able to have a different set for each character.”
Fergusson drew on her extensive knowledge of Faulkner’s works to write the scripts for each of the ten characters, often with a specific actor or actress in mind. She led a Faulkner discussion group for the last three years, giving her the opportunity to reread the source material in depth. Each character has a monologue (and in one scene, a dialogue between two characters) that is a combination of Fergusson’s own words and direct quotes from the novels in which they appear. The effect is that of the characters telling the stories from their own perspective, rather than a direct plot summary. By the end of the production, the audience should be able to walk away with a good feel for Faulkner’s writing.
Dr. Fergusson’s passion for Faulkner is evident in her enthusiasm for this project. She said, “My goal is that everybody will rush out of [the theater] and rush down to Square Books and start banging on the doors saying, Let us in, we’ve got to buy more Faulkners!”
In addition to the ten actors involved in the performance, Andy Douglas is providing technical assistance with the projection and music, and volunteers from the Cedar Oaks Guild and the Oxford community are working together to make the production a must-see event.
There will be an opening reception on Thursday, October 30 from 7–8 pm prior to the debut performance. The reception will feature a silent auction where attendees can bid on many items from local businesses, including restaurant and retail gift certificates and a first edition, first printing of Faulkner’s novel, A Fable, donated by Square Books. Refreshments during the reception will be provided by Cathead Vodka and John Currence. In keeping with the Faulkner theme, a “Mississippi Mule” cocktail will be served, mixed from Cathead’s Honeysuckle Vodka —both honeysuckle and mules are recurring themes in Faulkner’s works.
After the reception, the show will begin and the audience will be transported to Faulkner’s world, to Yoknapatawpha County, where ten colorful characters will tell their tales amidst an elegant backdrop. Alongside the stage will be a fixed set with a replica of Faulkner’s writing desk and Fergusson’s own 1930s era Royal typewriter, surrounded by Faulkner’s books.
“So there will always be something for the audience to look at,” Fergusson said. “And that will keep the spirit of Faulkner there with us, too.”
Tickets can be purchased online at http://spiritsofox ford.bpt.ms or mail a check payable to Cedar Oaks Guild to P.O. Box 351, Oxford, MS 38655. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door the nights of the performances and at Thacker Mountain Radio on October 23 and 30. Tickets are $25 for Thursday night and $15 for the Sunday afternoon performance at 2 pm.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #215 (published October 23, 2014).
To download the PDF of this issue, click here.