Verandah Porche’s Play in Guilford Nov. 24 & 25

Broad Brook Anthology, a Play for Voices by Guilford poet, Verandah Porche, will be this year’s final production of Guilford Center Stage. The production is in association with Monteverdi Artists Collaborative. There will be two performances this weekend: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 pm, and Sunday the 25th at 4:00 pm, at Guilford Center Meeting House. General admission as $10 at the door.

The work, based on recollections of Guilford elders, was first performed in 2011, as part of the Town of Guilford’s 250th anniversary, and includes projected photographs by Jeff Woodward, and music by Don McLean.

Michael Fox Kennedy directs a cast of area actor-readers: Christopher Coutant, Gay Maxwell, James Maxwell, Arthur Pettee, Verandah Porche, and Robin Wolf.

The play weaves together recollections of 28 current and former Guilford residents aged 69 to 91, gathered between 2006 and 2009 by Verandah Porche, who recalls: “Our interviews had no set questions. Together, we felt for the “verse” in conversation: the telling phrase, the tender story, the odd joke deftly said. Couples chimed into each other’s tales. I typed in improvised shorthand. Later, when I returned to edit the text, memories deepened with our friendships. I published those narratives in two volumes of Kitchen Talks.

“For Guilford’s 250th Anniversary I had volunteered to write a play for voices. I asked Don McLean, a frequent collaborator, to compose music. Jeff Woodward, photographer and graphic designer, offered to take portraits of our narrators. I knew the seasoned director and actors who would make the verbal images come alive.”

Porche re-read such American classics of small-town life as Our Town and Spoon River Anthology — Guilford Center Stage presented Michael Nethercott’s stage adaptation of that work to open the 2018 season, as a bookend to the current play.

Porche continues: “Combing through Kitchen Talks, I decided on two sections: Childhood and Courtship. A few of my own poems seemed to fit. You may have guessed that the title of our play gives a nod to Spoon River. We chose Broad Brook because it passes, and travels to, many of the places mentioned, notably the Grange, which also shares its name, and, of course, it flows near the Meeting House.”

Guilford photographer Jeff Woodward, whose projected photos complement the narrative, visited each of the elders represented in the play, and took portraits of them, adding historical photos to the collection, and re-creating some scenes with children from his Guilford neighborhood as models.

Guilford composer Don McLean based the incidental music for the play on a 1907 square dance tune, thanks to a suggestion from dancemaster Andy Davis. The tune, “Redwing,” would have been danced at Broad Brook Grange and other area granges during the era — primarily the 1920’s to 1950’s — when many of those represented in the play met and socialized.

The music is performed by a trio: Amara Cunningham, flute, Mary Seaver, clarinet, and Kathy Andrew, viola & violin.

Guilford Center Meeting House is located at 4042 Guilford Center Rd. General admission tickets at the door may be paid by cash or check. Those wishing to use a credit card may purchase advance tickets from Brown Paper Tickets online or by phone: 800 (838) 3006. The old pews in the 1837 church may inspire playgoers to bring a seat cushion. Parking is primarily at nearby Broad Brook Grange.

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