The lights faded out, and just as quickly as we had come together, my latest play came to a close. The Century Box. Itself, a play about history, about the people of Grove City, Ohio, and Jackson Township --- about remembering them --- is now itself, history. Below are some final thoughts about this experience, why this play was different than my others, and some wonderful production photos courtesy of The City of Grove City.
I like to think of theatre as this culmination of frenetic energy that bursts forth onto the stage and then disappears. It was there, it happened. You go see it. You live with it. You applaud when it's over. You go home. They pack up. Everyone moves on. It's like the circus that way. It's like life. So why did The Century Box feel different?
After the curtain falls, the actors and crew strike the sets, lights, costumes, and everything else that made this temporary world something more. This is how every theatre show ends. I know this. I live this. It's simultaneously one of my most favorite and "unfavorite" things about making plays. I love that they are ephemeral and real and just for us, those in the room in that moment, and then they're gone. Yet, I hate when they're gone. I miss them.
This one, The Century Box, I will never forget. This one was real. A century box is simply another term for a time capsule. So, much like building an actual century box and filling it with history, I built a play which centered around a century box and ultimately served as one. Usually, I write about fictional people. I make up stories. This play --- these people, these stories --- this one was based in truth; based in history. It came with this enormous responsibility to honor these sons and daughters of Grove City and Jackson Township, to tell their stories, and to remember them.
You see, this year marks the 200th Anniversary of Jackson Township --- specifically, the Jackson Township located in the southwest corner of Franklin County, Ohio. I specify because, just in Ohio alone, there are 37 Jackson Townships; something I now know because I wrote this play. This Jackson Township, the one which encompasses The City of Grove City, has been my focus for over a year; and it has been my absolute pleasure to get to know the story of this township and the people that built it.
It was all the more sweeter to see it come to life; to see history take the stage. Even more rewarding was watching the audience watch the play. More then once, I saw people recognize the historical figures I chose to highlight, or remember a story because their parents or grandparents had lived it. A family name would be said and an excited chatter would crop up somewhere in the audience. Family names like Grant, Hoover, Miller, Breck, Chambers, Schilling, Gantz, Borror, Willert, Orders, Smith, Dunnick, and so many more. Descendants of the people we were portraying were there, watching their grandparents and great-great grandparents exist again, if only for a moment; and every time one of them came up after the show and shared their story with me, I was moved.
Like I said, it's an enormous responsibility to portray history on stage. History is such a fragile concept; it truly is just stories isn't it? Stories that we pass down from generation to generation. Our stories. Our viewpoints. Of which we all have our own, don't we? History is a combination of facts and memories; so to take that and then dramatize it... there may be two sides to every story, but there are an immeasurable number of sides to history. Thus, there are infinite possibilities as to what a century box for Grove City and Jackson Township could hold. This play was but a glimpse of what I found, and even that feels like just the beginning.
While this chapter of The Century Box has come to a close, I'm not done with this play. I hope to share more stories, to see this play back to the stage, and to watch it grow and evolve as the City of Grove City and Jackson Township has grown and evolved over the centuries. Until then, I will fondly remember the last weekend of May 2015, when the Little Theatre Off Broadway took a bunch of my words and made history come alive. I love what my director, Lisa Napier-Garcia, and her cast and crew put together, but it was no easy task.
200 years carries with it more history than any one person could have possibly encapsulated into one play. My hope is that the play inspired the audience to do what I did --- I hope it encouraged them go to the Grove City Library and read about their history. I hope they will visit the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society, and that they will take some time to find out more about the people who came before them; to research the pioneers and entrepreneurs that built their city; to find and share the stories of the people that lived here.
To remember them. Because they are fascinating. And I hope I did them proud.
Photos courtesy of The City of Grove City. May 29-31, 2015 at Central Crossing High School.
The Century Box
by Jeremy Sony
Presented by: The City of Grove City and The Little Theatre Off Broadway
Directed by: Lisa Napier-Garcia.
Featuring: John Bils, Kate Charlesworth-Miller, Amelia Crabtree, James C. Daniels, Glen Anthony Garcia, Nicholas Garcia, Kathy Hyland, Tahrea Maynard, Mark Miller, Holly Rahrig, Sue Rapier, and Martha Kathryn Smith.
Production Crew: Donnie Lockwood, Kat Wexler, Bev Babbert, Michael Bynes, John Heckman, D.C. Simpson, and Jai Furlong.
Special Thanks: Grove City Museum, Karen Lane, Jim Hale, Mike Lilly, the Staff at Grove City Library, Central Crossing High School (Billy Smith, Catherine Knoblauch, Sophia Friend, Nathan Weaver).
Thoughts. From my brain. Anything to do with how we tell stories and the stories we tell each other. Literally and figuratively.
Writer. Husband. Father. Effulgent dreamer. A Fightin' Irishman (@NDdotEDU '01). A playwriting Bobcat (MFA in Playwriting, @OhioU '13). I write plays. I'm a geek. I wanted to be an astronaut. I go places in my head.