On September 14, Miami University Hamilton welcomes Coal Town Photograph, a unique live performance that speaks to the Appalachian experience of leaving home and returning home to find things have forever changed. Based on the book by Pauletta Hansel, Coal Town Photograph blends poetry, music by Raison D’Etre, and theatrical performance by Falcon Takes Flight—an outreach wing of Falcon Theater in Northern Kentucky.
The Extraordinary Times catches up with Clint Ibele, director of Falcon Takes Flight, and member of Falcon’s board. In addition to many roles at Falcon both on stage and behind the scenes, Clint is developing HIVoices, a storytelling project featuring stories of individuals living with HIV. Recently retired from the Northern Kentucky Health Department where he was an HIV case manager, Clint is an avid reader, amateur genealogist, and a fan of Ohio State football.
* What is the mission of Falcon Theater/ Falcon Takes Flight?
Falcon Theatre’s mission is to welcome all people to engage in passionate expression through live theatre. We strive to inspire conversation, cultivate understanding, propel innovation and celebrate the diversity of humanity.
Falcon Takes Flight collaborates with community partners to promote the arts and the love of theatre. Beginning in 2013, Falcon, in conjunction with the Campbell County Library, performed "Soldier, Come Home" for the library's inaugural Signature Series. From this relationship, Falcon Takes Flight was born. Since its inception, FTF has toured area venues including schools, museums, churches, community centers and libraries throughout Ohio and Kentucky.
* How has Falcon navigated the challenges of the past year-and-a-half?
The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone and especially for arts organizations. Falcon, like all theaters, has had to suspend all in-person productions during this time and find ways of remaining creative.
Last summer we produced several of our Falcon Takes Flight productions by having actors record the voice work from their own homes and then mixing those voices with music from Raison D’ Etre, a local musical trio, who have collaborated with us many times. These productions were offered via YouTube free of charge.
Over the past season we have also produced three full stage productions as Theatre For Film projects. These productions took a more cinematic approach, filming actors on locations but keeping the spontaneity of live theater at the forefront. All three of these productions (Daisy, The Agitators, and Ben Butler) were offered as on-demand streaming productions.
We are eager to re-start live productions in our theater but these projects have helped us provide some work for local artists as well as theatrical work for our audiences to enjoy.
* How did you come to collaborate with Pauletta Hansel and Raison D'Etre?
Since we began performing, our choice of materials has focused on Kentucky and Ohio poets, whose stories tell us about the people, the history, and the landscapes of our region. We were introduced to Raison D’Etre in 2013 by Janet Arno who oversaw special events programming at Campbell County Library. She told us about “Soldier, Come Home”, a series of letters written by family members during the Civil War. After reading it, I knew the addition of music from the era would help tell the story and asked if she might recommend a local musical group to accompany us. She introduced us to Raison D’Etre, and they have been a part of each production since.
Pauletta Hansel was part of Falcon’s and Raison D’Etre’s Poet and Song series a few years ago. At the time, we were looking for material for a future Signature Series and it was recommended I contact her about featuring Coal Town Photograph. As with each of our prior poets, she graciously agreed and a new relationship was formed. We’ve been fortunate in that all our local authors have been present at the performance. It’s great fun to watch their reactions as their words are read by another person in that setting.
* What kind of reception has Coal Town Photograph enjoyed?
We’ve only had the opportunity to perform it once, at the Campbell County Library’s Signature Series in January 2020. A few more performances were scheduled for the fall, but Covid intervened. It was greatly received at the Signature Series, drawing one of the larger audiences we’ve had. We’re looking forward to September when we may perform the long awaited show we were supposed to have last year!
Miami University Appalachian Studies Presents: Coal Town Photograph, Tuesday, September 14, 7pm @ Parrish Auditorium, Miami University Hamilton Campus.
Matthew Smith, PhD (History). Public Programs at Miami University Regionals. Historian of Appalachia, the Ohio Valley, & the early American republic.