Quarter-century later, play premiering in Nevada City
“Grinder’s Stand (A Tragedy of Blood)” finally premieres Friday in Nevada City, 25 years after Oakley Hall III started writing it.
The verse play, which questions the accepted theory that American frontiersman-explorer Meriwether Lewis killed himself, will be at Nevada Theatre for four weeks. Foothill Theatre Company’s production previews tonight.
The premiere delay wasn’t because of a massive dose of writer’s block; rather, Hall suffered severely debilitating brain injuries when he fell off a bridge in Lexington, N.Y., in 1979. According to Hall, his IQ of 200 was reduced to 8 after the accident, but he refused to give up his artistic dreams the past 23 years.
Hall comes from a literary family. His father, Oakley Hall, was director of the University of California at Irvine writing program for 20 years and is the author of 23 novels; sister Sands Hall is an actress, director and author; and sister Brett Hall-Jones is executive director of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
After receiving his master’s degree in English from Boston University, Hall founded and became artistic director of the Lexington Conservatory Theatre in the 1970s.
“It feels good to get ‘Grinder’s Stand’ out,” he said from his Nevada City home Tuesday. “‘Grinder’s Stand’ has been on the top of my mind.”
He reworked a fourth of the play after FTC presented a staged reading in 1999.
Hall researched biographies, histories and four books of Lewis’ notes at the New York City Public Library and a private library for a total of three years, mostly during the ’70s.
Hall became a detective of sorts in the library when he suggested suicide was the farthest thing from Lewis’ mind, that in fact Lewis was assassinated by someone working undercover for President James Madison.
In the play, Lewis, the Northern Louisiana territory governor, is on his way to Washington, D.C., to talk to Madison and ex-President Thomas Jefferson when Lewis is murdered at Grinder’s Stand, 30 miles south of where Nashville is today.
The play contends Lewis wanted Madison to grant him immediate decision-making powers to make peace with the Indians. Before taking action, Lewis needed approval from the government, which used to take three months to grant through normal channels. Lewis also planned to ask the president if he could be paid back for debts he incurred in the name of the government.
“Lewis had incredible luck and love for the country,” Hall said. “He just met a fascinating woman, Mrs. Grinder. He wouldn’t have taken his life.”
Hall is historical consultant for the play, directed by Philip Charles Sneed, FTC’s artistic director. The cast includes Gregg Koski, David Silberman, Armond Edward Dorsey, Frederick Snyder and FTC resident actors Timothy Orr, Mark Hales, Carolyn Howarth and Gary Wright.
WHAT: World premiere of 3Grinder1s Stand (A Tragedy of Blood)²
WHEN: Previews Thursday at 7 p.m., runs from May 3 to May 26 Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City
ADMISSION: $17 Thursdays and Sundays, $21 Fridays and Saturdays. Preview performance is $10. Some $5 seats available and discounts for seniors, children 12 and under, students and groups of 10 or more.
Benefit will aid libraries
A 3pay-what-you-can² benefit for 3Grinder1s Stand (A Tragedy Of Blood)² will be Saturday at 2 p.m.
All proceeds will go to Friends of the Nevada County Libraries.
Tickets are available at the box office for this special performance starting at noon.
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