The New Depression

Article Published: Oct. 6, 2011 | Modified: Oct. 9, 2011
The New Depression

Set in the Great Depression, ‘Mother Hicks’ deals with people who are strong yet struggling to survive both physically and emotionally.

Photo by Neil Reda

These economic times in America have been called “a new Depression” by some historians.

With that in mind, it might be a good idea to revisit the Great Depression of the 1930s to see how our grandparents coped with the loss of jobs, money and security.

The Appalachian State University Department of Theatre and Dance is currently presenting Susan Zeder’s drama, “Mother Hicks,” at Valborg Theatre.

Written in the 1980s but set in 1935, it deals with people who are struggling to survive and have their voices heard.

“It’s not a new play, but it’s a new story for most people,” director Teresa Lee said. “I think folks today can identify with it because it takes place in the Depression, and plenty of people are suffering today. It’s not hard to see people who are down on their luck and on the fringes of society.”

One of the unique elements of “Mother Hicks” is that it utilizes a deaf narrator, Tuc, who uses American Sign Language and an interpreter to communicate to the audience.

“The narration is written in verse, and it is very poetic,” Lee said. “It’s like a living, breathing folk song.”

The actor who portrays Tuc, Will Allen, studied American Sign Language to get all of the signs accurate.

Another unique aspect of the play is the elaborate set, which includes grocery and sundry items from the 1930s and two electrical poles on loan from Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation. The set was designed by Mike Helms.

“We drew inspiration from the Depression-era paintings of Thomas Hart Benton and the photos of Dorothea Lange,” Lee said.

The cast of “Mother Hicks” includes Will Allen as Tuc, Kellie Letner as Girl, Abby Suggs as Mother Hicks, Luke White as Ricky, Jacob Dailey as Jake, Taylor Hauck as Izzie, Josh Warthen as Clovis, Victoria Rivera as Hosiah, Shelby Lingerfelt as Alma, Will Gwyn as Wilson and Jamie Dowell as Howie.
Musical interludes are provided by Derrick Davidson and Mike Helms.

Performances of “Mother Hicks” are Oct. 6 to 8 at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday, Oct. 9, matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students, $13 for ASU staff and $15 for the general public, and are available at the Valborg Theatre box office or by calling (828) 262-3603.

In addition to these performances, ASU Theatre and Dance will present the show to middle school students from Watauga County next week. Those shows are being underwritten by Mast General Store through a collaboration between ASU Theatre and Dance, Watauga County Schools and the Watauga Arts Council. Other support comes from the Southern Appalachian Historical Association and the Dan’l Boone Inn.

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