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).
Earlier this year, the City of Grove City, Ohio, commissioned me to write a new play for 2015 to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Jackson Township and the role that Grove City has played in its history and development. While the full play will premiere next Spring, the city is working with their hometown theater, the Little Theatre Off Broadway (LTOB), to present a first look preview of the play at this weekend's Arts in the Alley festival.
It's been a great pleasure working on this play thus far; and although I can't share the full story with you until next Spring, I'm thrilled that Grove City and LTOB are bringing this first look to the stage. And all during an arts fest celebrating its 35th year. They're calling for an absolutely beautiful weekend in Grove City, like high 70s/low 80s, so please come and enjoy the arts festival and stop by LTOB for one of our six performances of the first look of the Grove City Play. See you in the theater!
So they talked about me on TV this weekend. What? Yeah. I don't think that will ever get old. It's pretty sweet (and by "they" I mean my director, Lisa, and the host of a local show with regard to a new play being previewed at Grove City's Arts in the Alley later this month). On Sunday, my mom called to tell me that my aunt phoned her to say that she heard my name mentioned on OUT N ABOUT COLUMBUS. After some internet research, this was proven true.
OUT N ABOUT COLUMBUS spoke with my director (and active member of LTOB), Lisa Napier-Garcia about the history of LTOB and how we're getting involved with Arts in the Alley by sharing part of this exciting project. I've tried to cue up the segment below. Lisa's interview begins close to the 17:50 mark.
Keep reading after the YouTube video to find out more about my Grove City play.
The play is one of two plays I've been working on for this Fall (the other being ROBIN HOOD... more on that later this week). I call this one THE GROVE CITY CENTURY BOX: A HISTORICAL MYSTERY. Commissioned by the Grove City Historical Commission, the play will have a full production in Spring of 2015 to coincide with the 200th Anniversary of Jackson Township.
I'm excited to be working with LTOB (The Little Theatre Off Broadway) in Grove City on the production side of things, as they will present a preview of the play, September 20-21 at Arts in the Alley. Think: extended trailer. You'll have six chances to stop by LTOB during this annual arts festival in the heart of historic downtown Grove City and get a glimpse at what we're working on for next Spring.
About the play: In present day Grove City, Sydney and her brother Dylan are prepping a house for auction when Sydney discovers what appears to be an abandoned time capsule. When they open it, it unlocks a mystery that centers on a young girl in 1952. Who she is, what happened to her, and why she created the forgotten century box can only be answered by digging through the history of Grove City---and the answers Sidney finds will forever change her.
Showtimes and further information will be posted as soon as I have it!
It's not everyday you get the chance to stage history.
Happy to share the news that I have been commissioned by the City of Grove City, Ohio to craft a new play!
In celebration of the 2015 Bicentennial of Franklin County's Jackson Township, home to Grove City, I'll be writing a new play that will highlight the history of the area. The play will be a collection of tales aimed at capturing a wide range of stories and events from the past 200 years.
How fun is that, right? (That's rhetorical. . .I'll tell ya, it's gonna be pretty fun.)
Right now, that's all I can tell you. This commission is new and so I am actually in research mode. I'm already learning some fascinating things about Grove City, like that the first graduating class from Grove City High School was all women; or that a surprising number of the city's founding fathers died in freak accidents; or that from 1898 to the 1920s, you could travel from Columbus to Grove City on the Grove City and Greenlawn Street Railway, which gave the city a boom at the turn of the 20th century before automobiles came into fashion (as they were still pretty new then). I also heard a rumor about Al Capone and a racetrack, but I'm trying to verify that one.
With close to 200 years to sift through, I'm excited to see what stories emerge.
The full play is slated to be shared in the Summer of 2015. A short preview of the play is in the works for this Fall's Arts in the Alley and as that develops, I'll be posting about it.
This entire project would not be possible if not for the commitment to the arts by the City of Grove City and the Grove City Historic Commission, especially Jim Hale and Lisa Napier-Garcia. I'm excited to work with them on bringing Grove City and Jackson Township's history to life!
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.