A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Georgia. I knew it was a Georgia phone number because of the area code. Although I did not recognize the number, I answered the call anyway. I was sitting in a hospital room at the time, waiting on the birth of a grandson.
Paul Pierce, the artistic director of Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia, my hometown, was on the other end of the line. I about fell out when Paul told me he had finished reading “Mother of Rain” and wanted to adapt it for the stage. Seriously. It was one of those out-of-body moments.
A few days later, Paul sent me a text. What are you doing February 19th? he asked. Can you come to Columbus? We have this party where we announce the upcoming season and I’d like for you to be here when we tell them we are going to stage “Mother of Rain.”
I couldn’t tell anyone. Not even season ticket holders David and Jane Wilson, who live in Columbus, but are originally from Oregon (where I now live). I sent Dave & Jane an email. I have to make an unexpected trip to Columbus, would it be okay if I hang out at your place? Dave & Jane didn’t ask any questions. C’mon, they said. So I’ve been here in their lovely lakeside home since Tuesday, trying to not to spoil the surprise that was announced tonight.
“Mother of Rain” will be one of the upcoming plays produced by the Springer Opera House for the 2015-2016 season. In April 2016, Burdy, Maize, Rain and other members of the community of Christian Bend will make their stage appearance!!!
How thrilling to bring a novel I wrote about the power of community to the stage of the community that helped raise me. That’s what I told the crowd. Or at least I think that’s what I told them. That’s what I intended to tell them when Paul called me up on stage.
Art begating art.
That is when we are at our best, the best God created us to be, when we are creating something good ,something beautiful, something that makes others think, or marvel, or create themselves.
But before I went on stage, I had the opportunity to spend time with Raymond Campbell. Those of you who read the book on Judge Ruge McCombs – the first book I ever wrote (Benched) – will remember Raymond as Judge’s court clerk. Raymond was a huge help to me then. So I was delighted to run into him after all these years. He took me by the hand and introduced me to everybody and their mama.
What a joy it was to meet Peggy, who works at Columbus State, and Pam, who serves on the Springer board and, like me, is a CHS alumni. And to meet the many people who have supported me over the years by reading the writing I have done for the Ledger-Enquirer or who have bought my books.
Columbus is not the town where my kinfolks live. My kin live mostly in Tennessee, but Columbus is the home where I started kindergarten and where I finished high school. It was while I was at CHS that Marjorie Drury taught me how to construct a sentence and developed within me a love of good literature.
Columbus is home to some of my dearest and oldest friendships. (And now the term oldest is meant in the most literal of ways).
Columbus has been home to many writers besides me, of course. Carson McCullers is the best known among us. Her work has made the stages of many theaters around the world. Carson, however, grew up in a different Columbus than I did. Her relationship with her hometown was filled with conflict.
That has not been my experience.
The people in this town believed in me before I believed in myself. They have loved and cared for me. The Ledger-Enquirer published the very first opinion column I ever wrote. Billy Winn, Dusty Nix, Chuck Williams have long cheered me on in this writing field. Great editors all.
I can’t think of anyplace I would rather have “Mother of Rain’ staged than right here among my tribe. I don’t know the people in LA or NYC. The people of Columbus are proud to own me and I love having the opportunity to make them proud of me.
Of course, I am hoping wherever you live that you will call the Springer and order your tickets to “Mother of Rain”. I’d love the opportunity to show you around Rivertown. You can raft the Hooch or zipline across it. You could ride bikes out to Fort Benning, or sit in one of the many fabulous coffee shops downtown. I know all the really wonderful local hangouts. As they say around these parts, y’all come on, you hear?
Karen Zacharias is author of “Mother of Rain” and the sequel “Burdy” due out Fall 2015. (Mercer University Press).
The Springer Opera House is the State Theatre of Georgia and has been a leading Southern cultural institution for the past 141 years. Today, the Springer is one of America’s most vibrant professional theatre companies.
Mercer University Press, established in 1979, has published more than 1400 books in the genres of Southern Studies, History, Civil War History, African American Studies, Appalachian Studies, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Poetry, Religion, Biblical Studies, and Philosophy. Publishing authors from across the United States and abroad, Mercer University Press focuses on topics related to the culture of the South. http://www.mupress.org.