by Haley Flanders, dramaturg
Hello! Recently, many of the cast and crew for The Taste of Sunrise went to Utah Valley University in Orem to see their production of Mother Hicks. No, it’s not a coincidence they were doing this play! Here is Professor John Newman’s director’s note in the program:
“Mother Hicks is one of three plays written by Suzan Zeder that are known collectively as The Ware Trilogy. All three plays were commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Children’s Theatre. As they were published, each won the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE). The Ware Trilogy is a landmark in children’s dramatic literature.
Mother Hicks is set in the 1930’s, its prequel The Taste of Sunrise in the 1920’s, and its sequel The Edge of Peace in the 1940’s. Tuc, Girl, Mother Hicks, and Clovis P. Eudy appear in all three. Ricky Ricks, introduced in Mother Hicks, becomes a central character in the sequel (The Edge of Peace).
Utah Valley University is collaborating with Brigham Young University to present the full trilogy to Utah Valley audiences this year. BYU’s production of The Taste of Sunrise runs March 10-26. Participants at the March 25-26 AATE Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) event at BYU will see UVU’s staged reading of Mother Hicks, BYU’s production of The Taste of Sunrise, and UVU’s staged reading of The Edge of Peace. UVU will present a student-directed production of The Edge of Peace at UVU in May. For more information, see the Noorda Center’s blogsite, http://noordatheatrecenter.com.
UVU’s dramaturg on the production, Daniel Bunker, was also an actor in the show. He played the role of Hosiah Ward, Girl’s foster father. As the dramaturg, he provided a very helpful and educational study guide, which I will pull from and quote throughout some of my blogs, I’m sure. He gives the history of American Sign Language (ASL) and talks about Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, who established the American School for the Deaf in 1817. I recognized the last name Gallaudet because in my research for the program, I found an ASL font called Gallaudet. It’s really cool! It looks like this…
The font can be downloaded for free at this site: http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/gallaudettruetypefont.htm
Using that chart, see if you can learn to sign your full name by spelling it out. Now try and sign the name of the characters in Mother Hicks:
Mother Hicks * Girl * Tuc * Hosiah Ward * Alma Ward * Clovis P. Eudy Faye Cooper Cole * Izzy Ricks * Ricky Ricks * Jake Hammon * Howie Hammon
Watching Mother Hicks was like looking into the future of the story we are telling in The Taste of Sunrise. Although Mother Hicks was written 10 years BEFORE The Taste of Sunrise, it takes place 10+ years AFTER it chronologically. In this story, Tuc is living with Mother Hicks and helping her tend to the sick and helping women and animals birth their young. Here is a quick synopsis of Mother Hicks:
SYNOPSIS: It is the spring of 1935 in Ware. A character called Girl does not feel like she fits in because she is adopted and does not know her parents. When she learns about Mother Hicks, who is presumed to be a witch, Girl decides to become like her, because she has so much power. As she attempts to cast a spell, she accidentally cuts her leg. She is quickly rescued by Tuc and sent to Mother Hicks’s cabin. Tuc lives with Mother Hicks and helps her tend to the ill and injured. Girl is convinced she is the long lost child of Mother Hicks. Tension rises when Girl’s adopted parents find her in this cabin, perhaps being hexed by Mother Hicks.
I found it interesting that the entire play is not signed. Since our play is signed and spoken from start to finish, it seems as if Zeder realized the power behind ASL in performance and decided to make her next installment entirely signed, especially since it is meant to place the mind and memory of Tuc. This makes him the focus and gives him a backstory so we can enjoy and connect with this lovable character even more. In Mother Hicks, Tuc mainly only signs to narrate, while characters take turns interpreting for him. He also signs to speak to Mother Hicks and Girl, who learns to interpret his signs. To me, this was the most touching and beautiful part of the story, and I am excited to see how the audience feels when they watch and hear the whole play signed and spoken simultaneously in our production. Signing is powerful and I look forward to learning more as I dramaturg part 2 of this monumental series.