The Performance of Kettle Bottom 

As a fundraiser for United Way, The Folklife Center at Fairmont State is taking on the ambitious project of creating a collection of dramatic readings of poetry from the book Kettle Bottom, by Diane Gilliam Fisher. These performances will be done by faculty, students, and graduates of Fairmont State. The poems of Kettle Bottom are centered around West Virginia, and the labor strikes and battles that took place in 1920 and 1921. 

The project is ambitious in the fact that it is not just going to be an actor simply looking at the camera and reading, but instead, each reading of a poem is going to be a performance by that actor. Each poem in Kettle Bottom is written in one person’s specific point of view, and who is narrating changes often throughout the collection. This means a wide variety of settings, characters, and events are able to be used in the project. No two performances will be the same.  

These perspectives of characters range from wives of the mineworkers to the owners of the mining companies, creating a varied and diverse picture of what the labor strikes were like in West Virginia. These characters were created by Fisher through researching and reading about how the labor strikes affected people in West Virginia at the time. Each character portrayed in the story gives their own monologue-like story based around the events that took place in West Virginia, such as workers’ strikes, domestic problems, and even a mine caving in. 

To portray all of these varied perspectives, a cast of actors of varying ages and genders are participating in making Kettle Bottom a reality. Each actor is assigned their piece or pieces of poetry, and then they must analyze the text to create a historical context for their character that makes them come to life. This is their role as an actor; to truly make each individual story come to life, so when all of the actors’ parts are put together a varied, but the cohesive narrative is shown. 

Apart from the actors creating an identity for their characters, the setting was chosen for each person to portray their character within will also play a role in creating the performance of Kettle Bottom. The actors could be at a train station, sitting at a desk, in the woods, or at a barn. These locations allow the character to be brought even further to life by showing where they actually would have been at the time of the strikes. Other features will be added to further enhance the poetry in the final product, such as music and archival photos. 

The collection of the actors’ monologues will be compiled together to create the Kettle Bottom project. The filming for it is expected to be finished by the end of February, and after editing, the video will premiere as a fundraiser for United Way.  The Performance of Kettle Bottom will also go up on the Folklife Center page of the campus website after the fundraiser, if possible.  

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