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Spoon River Revenant - Final

"Spoon River Revenant"

Logline:  A mysterious stranger exposes the dark secrets and violence behind the placid facade of a small Midwestern town to a young journalist.

The theme is how the same issues return again and again in American life, in spite of the nostalgia some feel for the past.

FInal Draft: 

https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/share?s=bSQVP0Q9Q0ov63BF3aC9DQ

CHARACTERS:

ED, 20; a journalism student in a small, bucolic Midwestern college town.

CARL, late 50s; an old-school newspaperman and one-time editor.

THE PUBLISHER, 40s; Carl's boss and owner of his newspaper.

MINERVA JONES; 20s; an eccentric, wandering insomniac, the town poetess.

DR. MEYERS, mid-60s; Spoon River's respected and loved general practice doctor.

BUTCH WELDY, late 30s; a Spoon River roustabout and workingman.

JOHN CHURCH, middle-aged; a local attorney who represents companies.

JUDGE ARNETT, middle-aged; influential elected judge, part of the local political machine.

DAISY, early 30s; the town prostitute, who grew up in Spoon River.

LOGAN, early 30s; one of the town cops and a contemporary of Daisy's.

THOMAS RHODES, late 60s; the richest man in Spoon River; owns the town bank, the main store in town and the local canning factory where many townsfolk work, and runs the most prominent church as a deacon and donor.

THE REV. ABNER PEET: minister of Spoon River's most prominent church.

THE MOB; all of the above, plus other townsfolk of Spoon River.

Selecting the text for adaptation:

I read Spoon River Anthology and Winesburg, Ohio -- Spoon River just spoke to me much more, the way each short poem captured an entire life in so few words and the sum of all the poems captured the underbelly of a classic, idealized small American town.

Once I decided to work with Spoon River Anthology, I had to pick which poem(s).  I was immediately drawn to Carl Hamblin's story, because to me it said so much about the dark side of a homogeneous, parochial society -- the truth-teller can so easily become the pariah.  And there are both light and dark sides to our history: the small town virtues, but also the violence that we forget was not uncommon in small towns (lynchings, tarring and feathering, shunning, etc.), carried out or at least tolerated by "regular", normal residents.  Small-town newspapers could be both a source of courageous truth-telling and/or cover-up for the status quo.

I also read up on Edgar Lee Masters and his interest in the Progressive politics of his time; and I looked up some of the real, historic names in the poems, like Altgeld, to understand more of the context and what Masters was trying to say through his poems.  I became intrigued by how hard it was to be a woman in his fictional small town; so many of their stories in his poems were deeply tragic in ways that we still see today: domestic violence, sexual abuse, economic vulnerability.  Not just women, either: laborers, the disabled, children, anyone who had some vulnerability or was somehow considered different.  Vulnerability, hypocrisy, power dynamics -- these were major, lifelong concerns of Edgar Lee Masters and I wanted to be faithful to his ethos.

I started playing with combining a few of the short poems in "Spoon River Anthology", tying them together through a single character and memory.  It made sense to me to do that through Carl, the journalist who tried to tell the truth about what was happening in Spoon River and who knew many of the secrets the townspeople tried to hide during their lifetimes.  I also wanted to capture the author's overarching concept of the townsfolk somehow speaking from their graves, reflecting on their lives even after their deaths.

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