Queen Defender of the faith: Shawn's Script

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shawn's Script

Hey All!

We have opened Season 4 with Company Member Shawn Pfautsch’s Hatfield & McCoy. Shawn has been our Director of New Plays Development for years. He has helped the rest of us to organize and talk about our work, and so we are honored that he is now sharing with us his own incredible talent. I think you will agree that Shawn’s skill with language brings a new and wonderful element to The House brand of storytelling.

Matt Hawkins has directed every one of our stage combat sequences and was a perfect fit for this tale of bloodshed and bluegrass. In his main-stage directorial debut you will recognize his unique contribution to the ever-growing stable of artistic voices emerging from our ensemble. Matt has inspired this production with a deep respect for story and for the actor’s process. This dedication results in some of the most sophisticated performances yet seen on The House stage and a deeply moving night of theatre.

The run of Hatfield and McCoy is rolling along and its inspiring some great conversations in our audience and talkbalks. I thought I would bring you all into it by posting with Matt and Shawn’s Notes from the production. Note’s like these provide some great insight into the conversation that the artists are having about a production so it seemed a perfect place to catch some audience responses!

Have at it!

Nathan Allen
Artistic Director

A Note From the Director, Matt Hawkins:

I knew this was a show I wanted to direct as soon as I began reading Shawn’s script. As a fight choreographer, Violence is an integral part of my work. Being raised by a Southern Baptist family in Texas, Religion has also played a huge role in my life. Both the Hatfields and the McCoys were God-fearing families who centered their lives around the Good Book. Some of them justified violence based on their interpretation of God’s Word.

My hope is that this story brings up questions about Violence, Religion and Family. I hope the audience takes these questions home to their own families. I hope they keep talking for a long time.

A Note From the Writer, Shawn Pfautsch:

“For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.”
- The King James Bible, Psalm 90:9

While doing research for this play I opened up my grandfather’s old bible, the one his family had bought for him when he went away to seminary, the one he said I should have after he passed on. The ribbon bookmark was placed in the middle of Psalms and I began reading. This psalm, this quote leapt off the page. It was almost like fate…

From the beginning this play has been about stories for me: the stories we know and tell ourselves when momentous things happen in our lives. I think we remember these stories as a way of decoding our difficult next steps. We have epiphanies that the story of our life is suddenly like the story of a half-remembered book, movie or play. A character flashes to our mind whose tribulations preceded our own and we contemplate our future. Those ubiquitous WWJD bracelets from a few years back come to mind…

The origin of this idea in Hatfield & McCoy came to me like this: one day, while doing some internet research for this play, I came across an anecdote. It said that the only two books on the McCoy family mantelpiece were The King James Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I began to image two families whose only resources for decoding the world around them were the poetic, severe morality of that bible and the histrionic, fatal psychology of the bard. Their mythic fates suddenly seemed possible in a real world.

I wanted to quote this anecdote at the top of these notes, it being so formative to this play, but I can’t find it anymore. I’ve turned the Internet inside out trying to recover it with no luck. It makes me wonder if it ever existed at all, and that this play’s foundation is, itself, a story I told to contemplate my future.

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