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The Kentucky Cycle - Part 1 - The Homecoming

by Robert Schenkkan

So, a few nights ago on the subway I finished the entire Kentucky Cycle. In the back there is this amazing Author's Note where Schenkkan talks about the process of writing the play. He says he didn't intend for the play to be quite so extensive but as he was doing research he just felt that so much of the story relied on past history and so he kept going back a little farther. What he created was an epic piece that spans multiple generations of three families and how they help and hurt each other. He says:
Without the past, what is there to connect us to the present?
He also quotes Einstein:
A human being is part of the whole, called by us, "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
A good argument for a vegetarian lifestyle as well, I think. :)

As I embark on the process of writing a play (shh, it's a secret), I am in awe of the talent and dedication Schenkkan brought to The Kentucky Cycle. SO, let's get back to it! Now, to focus on the third in the cycle -- The Homecoming:
NOT to be confused with Pinter's play of the same name.. although it is equally as dark.

It is sixteen years later, and husband-of-the-year Michael Rowen got that son he wanted so badly. His name is Patrick and he is sixteen years old. Receiving the best qualities of both his parents, he is one with the land and a natural hunter. He's also in love with the pretty thing next door, who, upon the opening of the play has snuck up behind him on the hill where he is looking out. We get a sense of Patrick's connection to the earth when he tells his lady love:
When I hunt, I don't "pretend" I'm a deer or nothin'. I just am. I'm out here in the woods and things just get real ... still ... or somethin' ... It ain't magic or nothin'. It's just ... When I reach that place, when I just am, there, with the forest, then it's like I can call the deer or something'. I call'em and they come. Like I was still waters and green pastures, 'stead of hunger and lead.
I was instantly drawn in by Patrick - here is a character that is kind, defensive of his mother, loving, strong.. someone you can root for! But, ah, how much can change in the course of a few pages. By the end of The Homecoming, Patrick basically becomes his father.

Michael returns from a business trip with a slave whom he intends to breed himself to produce sons who will work the land. Star and Patrick are horrified by this but play along because they know it is the safer option. Patrick wants to get married and asks his father for his blessing and a piece of the land. He so strongly believes that the land is his, and when denied by his father (he says he'd rather give his land to his slaves that to his son) Patrick ends up killing him. Oops. This murder is accidentally witnessed by Patrick's girlfriend and her father Joe.. BIG oops. Turns out Joe is secretly in love with Star (Michael's wife) and they were planning to run away together.. ooh the drama is getting juicy. Joe offers to help Star get a good lawyer for Patrick. She refuses, saying that the town will hang her son for sure because he's part Cherokee. Joe tries to tell her:
The law be full-time and you cain't be pickin' and choosin' with it.
For all his noble words, he ends up dead too. Patrick kills him and then shoves his sobbing girlfriend inside the house, claiming that they would get married tonight. Gee, like father, like son? Kill some men, get land, force a woman into marriage. The American dream?

Tomorrow's Play: The Kentucky Cycle - Part 1 - Ties That Bind by Robert Schenkkan

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