On a morning this week when, overnight, the weather had lurched from summer to autumn, the cast and creatives of Greater Clements, a new play by Samuel D. Hunter, assembled in an LCT rehearsal room. Surrounded by theater staff, they heard a rousing welcome from Andre Bishop, LCT’s producing artistic director, before listening to Hunter and Davis McCallum, the production’s director, speak briefly about the project, which takes place in a small town in northern Idaho called Clements.
Hunter said: “There are three jumping-off points for the play. One is my mother, who grew up in a small town in southeastern Idaho that had a large Japanese population.” There was, Hunter continued, a large Japanese-American internment camp there.
Secondly, the playwright said, there was the town of Seneca, Nebraska, which, like Clements, voted a few years ago to un-incorporate itself. Thirdly, there was a town called Wallace, in northern Idaho, which – again, like Clements -- had a huge mining disaster in the 1970s.
These three things were incitements for Greater Clements but were not, Hunter said, “the reason I wrote the play. Which was something I’ve had a really hard time putting my finger on. Something about the ways in this country right now we’re retreating. And becoming intractable and ossifying.” Hunter mentioned that Yi Zhao, the production’s lighting designer, had said Greater Clements concerned “the effects of social isolation.” Hunter said, “I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the past couple of weeks, and I think that’s spot-on.”
Responding to Hunter, McCallum said: “I love this play, and you can tell from the way Sam talks about it how personal writing a play is.”
The drama, McCallum continued, “is in some way a mine. [Hunter] says on page one that we’re going to go down to the 6400-foot level of the mine – all the way to the bottom.” There are, McCallum said, “two impulses at work here. One is: ‘I don’t know if I want to go into that dark cave.’ And the other is to go in not just a little bit but all the way to the bottom.” This, the director said, is a metaphor for the production. “We want to explore it with as much courage as we can.”
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com.