The Down in Littletown project began when it seemed that many of the poems I was writing were about my experiences growing up in the South. This evolved into a vision to tell a fiction story in the form of a play.  Instead of how songs are interwoven within a musical, the play would organically manifest poems to help tell the story of a young man who left his home in a small southern town with a bitter vow to never return.  But fate would lead differently, bringing him back to care for his dying grandfather.  While staying in the homestead, he would be inspired to write poems: humorous, heart-wrenching, reflective–but all about life in rural America.

During the process of writing the play, I was accepted into a masters program and decided to use the project as my material of study for two arduous and expensive years.  Each poem was workshopped, scrutinized, deconstructed and reconstructed with some of the brightest and most respected poets in America.  Some of the poems in the play have been revised up to a hundred times.

 

After I earned my MFA in Creative Writing, using Down in Littletown as my creative thesis, it became time to take the play component of the story through the critical grind.  For two more years, I took the play to a weekly playwright workshop in Fayetteville to help shape and mold it.  When I felt that I had the product close to finish, I traveled the play to New York City to workshop in a group that specialized in one-person plays.  By the end of the weekend, I received rave reviews from the group leaders who advised me to put the play before an audience.

Within a few months the show was piloted before two Arkansas audiences with positive response, but I wasn’t pleased. I put the play on the carving block for a complete rewrite and brought it back to workshop.  Amid this time period, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had a removal surgery.  Five months following surgery, I fell asleep at the wheel while driving to a teaching gig and totaled my car.  I walked away without injury.  In spite of these horrific roadblocks, I remained undaunted to bring the play to completion.  Call it raw stubbornness or certifiable insanity, nothing was going to stop me.

I pushed through and brought the play to fruition, hired a New York director, and flew to New York to rehearse and block out the play.  Last April, Down in Littletown, debuted in Eldorado, Arkansas to a standing ovation audience.  The theater’s secretary said to me that her husband told her that the play was the best he had seen in the thirty years he’d attended events at the Art Center.

When the play premiered in Fayetteville for a two night run, it received standing ovations to highly intelligent and theater-savvy crowds.  Following the play, people were asking when I was taking it to New York.  Honestly, I never envisioned the play showing it New York; I just want it to show in small towns across Arkansas and the South.

 

Thousands of dollars and thousands of hours have been invested in this eight year project that is powerfully resonating with audiences.  Yes, comedies and musicals seem to draw bigger crowds.  But the depth and grit of this honest portrayal provides an audience a heart-moving and life affirming message they will never forget.

 
I write this to you not for sentimentality, rather for you to understand that this was no simple or fluffy endeavor.  Truly, the eight year making of Down in Littletown has been a gauntlet of determination and perseverance that has finally taken stage.  Please won’t you help bring, Down in Littletown to a stage in your town?