Another Coal Creek Moment
Friday, April 23, 2004

Imagine living your entire life knowing only that one of your ancestors died in a mine explosion, but not knowing anything else about him. What if you were descended from a miner who lost five brothers in that same explosion and survived because it was his day off to work the family farm? How do you think those who remained survived such grief?


Now imagine the emotions you would feel if you saw an original play written about the lives of those miners and their families. If you attended the premier of the play, "Measured in Labor: The Coal Creek Project", you could have shared in the emotions felt by descendants of the six Dezern brothers and William Murray who were in attendance.

You would have learned that men like to think they are responsible for the accomplishments of humankind. The message of the play suggests that if left to men, we would still be living in caves. The women of Fraterville picked up the pieces and rebuilt from the ashes, like women always do.  As playwright Alan Gratz observed, "Their decisions and challenges are those that any community faces when presented with great tragedy, and in the wake of 9/11, they are issues that continue to resonate even when separated from their historical antecedent".

So how did they survive the grief and rebuild from the ashes? The words of one of the songs from the play say it best:

God has plans and what he demands
Is to use our hands to his favor
But hands will do wrong if theyíre idled too long
Itís best if you turn them to labor

Now listen here girl itís a hard living world
You were born into thereís no denying
But itís still a gift if you use it and if
You donít spend too much time home a crying

It will tear apart too tender a heart
Build a strong wall around it
But walls can fall down and I have found
That grief can be eased by labor

So get on your feet girl
Bring a pail of water
When that is gone bring another one
Itís the work of the youngest daughter

Amy Hubbard (L), whose character
in the play (Rose) is modeled
after Louise Nelson's (R)
grandmother Lula Dezern.

If you too would like to experience a "Coal Creek Moment", you can attend one of the performances and also purchase the soundtrack of original songs from the play by Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle.

Click on images below to view photos from the opening night celebration:

Greg Congleton (L) whose character in the play (Preston) was one of the miners who came to Fraterville to rescue George Sipe's (R) great grandfather William Murray. Sarah Pirkle (C) and Jeff Barbra (R) who made us cry with their original songs during the play.  Costumer April Thompson (L) did a wonderful job dressing the actors. Cast of "Measured in Labor: The Coal Creek Project" and descendants of Fraterville miners during the premier party.
Actor Amy Hubbard (L) and Director Kara Kemp can finally relax after opening night. Sara Pat Schwabe (L), whose character in the play (Miss Elizabeth) is modeled after Ruby Ezell's (R) great grandmother Elizabeth Dezearn.
Descendants enjoy refreshments and discuss family history. Actors Greg Congleton (L) and Ben Fields (C), who played Andrew, the son who stayed home to work the farm on the day of the mining disaster. Sarah Cambpell (L), who plays Kaylee, the widow of one of the five brothers killed in the mine visits with descendant Louise Nelson (C).
Carol Moore (L) of the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, chats with Louise Nelson and the play's make-up artist. Does anyone notice by all the photos of Louise Nelson that she is quite the social butterfly?  Wonder if she took after her grandfather David Dezern who perished in the mine with his four brothers?

Read more info about the making of the play.

Actors visit Coal Creek

Read article in Knoxville Metro Pulse

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