Feigel­son’s ‘Moon Vine’ to de­but

Took first place in Theatre­works play­writ­ing con­test for sec­ond time

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - STAGE - By Jon W. Sparks Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Teri K. Feigel­son’s new South­ern Gothic play, “Moon Vine,” pre­mieres this week­end at Theatre­Works as a win­ner of Playhouse on the Square’s NewWorks@the­works play­writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion. It’s the sec­ond play she’s writ­ten and the sec­ond play she’s had staged thanks to the com­pe­ti­tion that seeks out new work.

Her first, “Moun­tain View,” pre­sented a year ago, was also a South­ern Gothic story, al­though set in the Ap­palachi­ans. It won Os­tran­der Award recog­ni­tion for best orig­i­nal script as well as a spe­cial award for orig­i­nal mu­sic and mu­si­cians. “‘Moon Vine’ is set in an old, ram­bling farm­house on Delta land in the 1970s,” Feigel­son says. “A once thriv­ing farm, it’s now kind of ghostly and faded, and most of it has been sold to de­vel­op­ers.”

The story fo­cuses on the re­la­tion­ship of a brother and sis­ter who are stuck with what’s left and try­ing to sur­vive as best they can.

Feigel­son has a clear sense of what she sees as be­ing South­ern Gothic. “I can tell you what I’m drawn to and that is dam­aged, sort of delu­sional, dys­func­tional char­ac­ters that I think make up a large por­tion of the genre,” she says. “There’s a dark side with a glim­mer­ing of light­ness and whimsy. There are some su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ments and mys­ti­cal ref­er­ences. And a lot of lay­er­ing of sym­bols.”

These tales emerge from her ex­pe­ri­ences and her deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion of sto­ry­telling. “Some­body once told me that I have an ear for di­alect and the rhythm of lan­guage,” she says. “Maybe that comes from the fact that I come from a long line of sto­ry­tellers, like my mom and dad. There were sto­ry­telling rit­u­als of an evening or on Sun­day after­noons, and that rit­ual has its

own kind of rhythm.”

Feigel­son’s fa­ther, the late Keith Kennedy, was di­rec­tor of theater and chair­man of the de­part­ment at Mem­phis State Univer­sity for 20 years un­til his re­tire­ment in 1985. “My dad truly had the gift, and my broth­ers do too,” she says. “That’s in my DNA. I al­ways wrote, but prior to just re­cently, I wrote mostly a jour­nal and ob­ser­va­tions about life.”

Her fa­ther al­ways en­cour­aged her, say­ing “Write, TK, write.” And, Feigel­son says, he urged her to ques­tion au­thor­ity. “Maybe if he’d said, ‘TK, un­der no cir­cum­stances should you ever write,’ I’d prob­a­bly have a cou­ple of nov­els by now. But I needed to ex­pe­ri­ence life to have some­thing to write about, so play­writ­ing came later in life.”

She feels for­tu­nate to have had her first two plays cho­sen by the Newworks@the­works com­pe­ti­tion and in hav­ing Ken Zim­mer­man di­rect both plays. “The writ­ing talent in this com­mu­nity is rich, and I’m glad Ken has been in­ter­ested in di­rect­ing. He un­der­stands where I’m com­ing from.”

“Moon Vine,” a win­ner of Playhouse on the Square’s Newworks@the­works com­pe­ti­tion, July 8-31 at Theatre­works, 2085 Mon­roe Ave. Show­times: 8 p.m. Thurs­days, Fri­days, Satur­days; 2 p.m. Sun­days. Tick­ets: $22 open­ing week­end, $30 Thurs­days and Sun­days, $35 Fri­days and Satur­days. $22 se­niors/stu­dents/mil­i­tary; $10 chil­dren un­der 18. Info: 901-726-4656 and play­house­on­thesquare.org.

TALES AND SONGS

Sto­ry­teller Elaine Blanchard and bass-bari­tone Lau­rence Al­bert are team­ing up for an un­usual pro­gram of spo­ken and sung words Wed­nes­day.

The pre­sen­ta­tion is part of the Se­nior Arts Series from the non­profit Creative Ag­ing. The series is open to ev­ery­one but is par­tic­u­larly aimed at se­nior cit­i­zens who want to ex­pe­ri­ence the arts but may not be able to drive at night or af­ford ex­pen­sive tick­ets. The events are held ev­ery cou­ple of months at Theatre Mem­phis.

Blanchard is known for putting to­gether Prison Sto­ries, a creative writ­ing and per­for­mance pro­gram where in­mates can share their ex­pe­ri­ences. She won the 2011 Jef­fer­son Award for Pub­lic Ser­vice in Mem­phis and re­ceived the Up­stander Award from Fac­ing His­tory and Our­selves. She was also awarded the Woman of Vi­sion Award for 2014 from Mem­phis’ Women of Achieve­ment.

Al­bert has per­formed more than 50 op­er­atic roles in his 40year ca­reer, in­clud­ing in Europe, Africa and through­out North Amer­ica. His pre­sen­ta­tion will in­clude Richard Strauss’ “Breit’ über mein Haupt” and Mar­garet Bond’s “Three Dream Por­traits,” which he per­formed at the Le­vitt Shell in 2015. He will be ac­com­pa­nied on pi­ano by Jill Chamberlain Brookoff.

Blanchard says her story is adapted from her first one-woman show, based on her life as a young girl. “I was 5 and lonely and went across the street to have a con­ver­sa­tion with a black boy,” she says. There were ugly con­se­quences when her par­ents found out, and the story had a pro­found im­pact on Blanchard.

“I’ve re­worked it and fic­tion­al­ized the res­o­lu­tion of the story,” she says. “And Larry is go­ing to be singing these beau­ti­ful pieces,” at stop­ping points dur­ing her sto­ry­telling.

The per­for­mance series is a boon not only for its tar­get au­di­ence but for the artists as well. Creative Ag­ing has sev­eral paid artists on its ros­ter, in­clud­ing Blanchard, and pairs them with guest artists for the events.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­nity to hear and see dance, singing, folk mu­sic and to talk with the artists,” Blanchard says. “It brings peo­ple back to life. It’s so “Moon­vine”: A South­ern Gothic tale comes to life as fam­ily mem­bers on a Delta farm try to cope with the past, present, and un­cer­tain fu­ture. 8 p.m. Thurs­days, Fri­days, Satur­days; 2 p.m. Sun­days, through July 31. Pots@the­works, 2085 Mon­roe. $35 Fri­days-satur­days, $30 Sun­days and Thurs­days, $22 se­nior cit­i­zens, stu­dents and mil­i­tary with ID, $10 chil­dren un­der 18. 901-726-4656. play­house­on­thesquare.org. “Sis­ter Act”: When disco diva Deloris Van Cartier wit­nesses a mur­der, she is put into pro­tec­tive cus­tody in a con­vent. 8 p.m. Fri­day-satur­day ($40) and 2 p.m. Sun­day ($35) at Playhouse on the Square, 66 S. Cooper. $22 se­nior cit­i­zens, stu­dents and mil­i­tary, $15 for chil­dren un­der 18. 901-726-4656.

re­ward­ing, and I love my sto­ry­telling gig.”

Creative Ag­ing presents Lau­rence Al­bert and Elaine Blanchard, 1 p.m. July 13 at Theatre Mem­phis, 630 Perkins Ext. Ad­mis­sion $5. Info: cre­ativeag­ing­mid­south.org and 901-272-3434.

Bekka Koch and Dane Van Brock­lin play sis­ter and brother in the South­ern Gothic drama “Moon Vine,” a premiere of the lat­est play by Mem­phian Teri K. Feigel­son, open­ing this week­end at Theatre­works.

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