Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.
The cycle is epic in style when the plays are performed together, yet each individual play tells a powerful story on its own. (The character breakdowns shown here reflect the individual plays, but, together, a minimum of 20 actors can play the many parts.) Part I: MASTERS OF THE TRADE: 1775. Michael Rowen, an indentured servant from Ireland, watched his wife and children massacred by Indians. Determined to survive in the hostile wilderness of Eastern Kentucky, he swindles an old trapper, murders an innocent boy and sets up gun trade with the Indians. They give him land he craves with a warning that it is haunted; in return, Rowen promises more gunpowder and gives them blankets tainted with smallpox. Clutching a gold watch stolen from the dead trapper, Rowen sets in motion a legacy of corruption that will curse his valley and its people for generations to come. (9 men.) THE COURTSHIP OF MORNING STAR. 1776. Into the hut built on his homestead, Rowen takes a wife by kidnapping Morning Star, a young Indian girl whose tribe has been ravaged by smallpox. To keep her from escaping, he cuts the tendon of her leg. Although she hates Rowen, she loves the child she bears for him, believing the baby to be a true son of her lost people, for whom she mourns the rest of her life. (1 man, 1 woman.) THE HOMECOMING. 1792. Michael Rowen returns home from Louisville with news that Kentucky has become a state and with a young black slave woman he has bought with the idea of breeding a second family. Morning Star fears his treachery, remembering when he took their infant daughter and buried her alive because he didn't want a girl. Morning Star warns Patrick, now a young man who wants to marry Rebecca Talbert, the daughter of their neighbor Joe Talbert, that Michael will never give him the family land. Enraged, Patrick murders Michael just before the Talberts arrive. Joe Talbert, in love with Morning Star, refuses to overlook the crime. Patrick then kills him, banishes his mother from the homestead, and marries the dead man's daughter. (3 men, 3 women.) TIES THAT BIND. 1819. Patrick Rowen, as land hungry as his father before him, fights desperately to keep his land before a corrupt judge about to foreclose on the property. As his sons, Zeke and Zach, watch in horror, Patrick trades off everything he possesses to a stranger who holds the note on the land. When he offers to sell the slave, Sally, and her son, Jessie, Sally pleads for her son, revealing that he is in fact Patrick's brother. Even this does not stop Patrick from sacrificing Jessie. When he has given up everything, the stranger introduces himself as Jeremiah Talbert, the brother of Patrick's dead wife. With him is Morning Star, who has helped wreak revenge on her only son. Outraged, Zach leaves his father, never to return. Patrick is left alone with Zeke, to work as a sharecropper on the land he has lost. (8 men, 2 women.) GOD'S GREAT SUPPER. 1861. The Rowen family has worked hard and long as poor sharecroppers, their land now owned by Richard Talbert, an arrogant aristocrat and son of Jeremiah. Patrick, now eighty-six and disabled by a stroke, lives in poverty with the pious Zeke and his family. Richard Talbert convinces Zeke's son, Jed, to join him in fighting with the Confederacy. But Jed, loyal to settling his family's account, murders Richard on the battlefield, and is ushered into the horrors of the Civil War. When Jed returns with his fellow deserters, they burn and destroy the Talbert place, killing the children, slaves and animals, leaving alive only the two Talbert women to witness the slaughter. (12 men, 3 women, flexible). Part II: TALL TALES. 1890. Greed and deceit catch up with Jed Rowen in the guise of JT Wells, a storyteller who arrives one day to flirt with Mary Anne, Jed's pretty young daughter. After charming the Rowen family with his stories, JT convinces Jed to sell the mineral rights to his land. When Mary Anne saves JT's life, he gives her back t
Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize. This sweeping epic of three families in eastern Kentucky spans 200 years of American history from 1775 to 1975. Fast-paced and finely drawn, Schenkkan's stunning six-hour, nine-play cycle examines the myths of the American past which have created, for better or for worse, the country we are today. "There are nine plays in all—each written with the kind of impassioned economy that immediately evokes memories of Sophocles and Euripides, short, taut, bloody actions that sparingly recreate the evil, mayhem, and retribution which permeates each of these two turbulent evenings." —TheaterWeek. "…as vast and bold as the emerging nation itself." —Variety.