Lee Writing Prof Commissioned To Write Play

Thursday, September 21, 2017 - by Charity Parris, Lee University
Stacey Isom Campbell
Stacey Isom Campbell

Lee University’s Stacey Isom Campbell has been commissioned to write a play to be performed by Lee Theatre next spring. 

“It’s a huge honor to have been asked to write something brand new to be performed on our campus,” said Ms. Campbell, associate professor of creative writing at Lee. “I’m excited to have my work showcased in this way.” 

Dr. Christine Williams, associate professor of theatre at Lee, asked Ms. Campbell to write the play last fall, and Ms. Campbell has been working on it since then. “This is a faster pace than my usual process, but I am trusting the process and working toward a worthwhile finished product,” said Ms. Campbell. 

Professor Campbell has been working with Dr. Williams and a dramaturg, which is a professionally-trained literary editor who consults with writers and edits texts. Ms. Campbell has been sending drafts, and they have provided her with consistent feedback throughout the writing process. 

“I have had the pleasure of serving as a reader for several of Stacey’s plays and working with her on a few workshop productions in the past,” said Dr. Williams. “She is such a talented playwright and brings interesting characters to life. We are honored to have the opportunity to work on this new play and introduce it to our Cleveland community.” 

Directed by Dr. Williams, the play, “When Mountains Move,” tells the epic tale of Lillie Mae Bostic, told through a chorus of coal miners and a bluegrass band. The story is set on Black Mountain, Kentucky, and follows the decade-long labor struggle of the coal miners for the basic human rights denied them in the 1930s. 

Due to the unusual circumstances of her birth, Lillie Mae’s father believes God has given her “a Word for her people.” She searches for her Word while growing up in the Closplint Church of God, surrounded by women who join the fight for freedom. While the play is fictional, it is inspired by historical accounts of Bloody Harlan in the 1930s, the preacher-miners who secretly helped to gain support for the United Mine Workers of America, and the oral histories of the people who experienced these hardships. 

Many of Ms. Campbell’s relatives worked as coal miners and experienced harsh labor struggles and working conditions. Much of her inspiration for the play comes from her Church of God background and familial connection to coal miner injustice.

“The preacher-miners of the region played an important role in the coal miners’ fight for justice,” said Professor Campbell. “These people didn’t have the freedoms that others around them did, and this play draws attention to a history that not many people know about. It explores how the power of words and a little bit of faith can truly move mountains.” 

Ms. Campbell’s work has been seen or won awards at The Barter Theatre, Rockford New Play Festival, Pittsburgh New Works Festival, and The Great Plains Theatre Conference, and L.A. First Stage, among others. A few of her plays include “Letters to John Lennon,” “Smokin’ Devils,” “California Dreamin’,” “Laundry at the Coin & Spin,” and “The Memory of Ice.” 

The first spring production of the Lee Theatre 2017-18  season, “When Mountains Move,” will be performed on Feb. 16-17 and 22-24 in the Buzz Oates Black Box Theater, located in Lee’s Communication Arts Building. 

To read more of Ms. Campbell’s work, visit stacey-isom-campbell.squarespace.com

For more information about Lee Theatre, visit www.leeuniversity.edu/theatre or email theatre@leeuniversity.edu.

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