Three generations of women struggle to survive on an isolated mountain when the arrival of a representative from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) sparks a slow unraveling of family secrets tied to the mountain's tragic past. Years ago, an unassuming "ballad hunter" arrived on the mountain to record the traditional ballads of England and Ireland,preserved for generations through the oral traditions of Appalachia. There he met Gussie, a shy young woman with a stunning voice, singing to herself in the woods. In the course of a single afternoon, the two fell in love and consummated their rare and unusual connection. Promising to return, the ballad hunter left to collect more songs from the miners; that evening, however, a tragic explosion rocked the mine, killing nearly all of the men. Their wives and daughters blamed the tragedy on Gussie's mysterious ballad hunter, who arrived and disappeared on the very same day. Fifteen years later, Gussie, hollowed by lost love, is a midwife in the valley, feared and revered for her rumored powers. She lives a lonesome, stoic existence, tolerant of her cantankerous mother, Hetty, and deeply protective of her sweet, bright, unabashed daughter, Lotta,the offspring of her tryst with the ballad hunter. But history begins to repeat itself: Singing softly to herself in the woods, Lotta meets Cecil, a stranger to the mountain. A naive but confident young man who spouts socialism and touts the wonders of electricity, Cecil has bet his boss that he can get the five needed signatures from the stubborn mountain residents that will allow the REA to proceed with electrification. Hoping to alleviate her family's isolation, Lotta invites Cecil to dinner. But food is scarce on the mountain; desperate, Lotta convinces her "mangled" and mute neighbor, Buzzy, to kill his only rooster so that she may provide a proper meal for her guest. Through the course of a long afternoon, Cecil's presence triggers revelation and healing as the trio of women are forced to reckon with their secrets, their sorrow and with each other. Unit set. Approximate running time: 2 hours.
"A deeply lyrical, emotionally varied and continually suprising new work... Laird's luminous writing gives Ballad Hunter both a sense of authenticity and the irresistible allure of a fairy tale and rare love story." —Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times