By Sarah Geegan
The UK Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program will host the author, director, full cast and technical crew of Silas House's new play, "This is My Heart For You," fresh from its world premiere at Berea College. The cast will do a staged reading, accompanied by projected images of the world premiere event, at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15, in Memorial Hall.
House, a Kentucky author whose novels have attained major prizes and spanned across national best-seller lists, sold out the first three performances of his play on the night of the world premiere.
"This is My Heart for You," performed by Berea College's theater ensemble, delves into the complexities of contemporary Appalachia, focusing on issues of religion, identity, community and equality, inspired by what House called "the summer of hate."
“Last summer there were several incidents about equality — alleged hate crimes, discrimination, etc. — in the area, and the theme just presented itself,” House said. “The issue of fairness and equality speaks to everything about who we are as a people."
The play follows two young men who are accused of inappropriate behavior, or "acting gay," in a community-run swimming pool. Their punishment divides the town, as the characters struggle to reconcile their strong religious views and affection for the boys. The conflict portrays the intricately woven cultural, religious, social and emotional undertones that permeate U.S. culture.
House said his goal was to examine religion, belief and faith in all their complications without ever ridiculing or simplifying them. He believes that Appalachia is a microcosm for the rest of America, thus his play is more than a regional story, but a representation for the entire country.
The play also includes music, dancing and multimedia elements. Director Adanma Barton, an assistant professor of theatre at Berea, said that the performance would make audiences laugh, cry and sing out loud.
“Silas House and Adanma Barton, along with the students and others involved in this production, have collaboratively produced a powerful vehicle for reflecting on the continuum of open and closed minds and hearts in any community, and in all of us,” Ann Kingsolver, director of the UK Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program, said.
She also admires the play because of the conversations it inspires.
"This extraordinary play opens the way for respectful and healing conversations about difference, about standing ground, about movement, and about listening directly to each other instead of to what we are told to think about each other," Kingsolver said. "This resonates with what Richard Bell will be talking about at the UK Art Museum at 2 p.m. on April 15, where his exhibit “Uz vs. Them” is being shown; we hope people will attend both events.”
Admission to the staged reading of the play “This is My Heart for You” is free and open to the public. Donations will be collected at the door for tornado relief in Eastern Kentucky.
To watch a trailer for the play, click here.