The Spoon River ProjectGreen-Wood Cemetery, Variations Theatre Group, Off Off Broadway
BOTTOM LINE: Poetic epitaphs presented by moonlight in Green-Wood Cemetery.
As we walked through Green-Wood Cemetery, I was struck by how peaceful I felt—this was not at all the ghoulish, terror-filled stuff of horror films, but the quiet and serene resting place of hundreds of thousands of souls now interred in one of the first rural cemeteries of New York. And when we arrived at a small clearing of grass amidst a spattering of gravestones, the audience sat and waited, as darkness overtook us, for The Spoon River Project to begin.
The Spoon River Project is a theatrical adaptation of an anthology of short, free-form poems by Chicago-lawyer Edgar Lee Masters published in 1915. Masters wanted to reflect on the small-town life of his childhood in Lewistown and Petersburg, Illinois, especially the hypocrisy and secrets of the villagers around whom he was raised. He thus created the fictional town of Spoon River (the name of a real river near his boyhood homes) and peopled it with a couple hundred inhabitants, some based on his memory, some completely made-up. The anthology, however, was not a collection of their remembrances or their stories, but rather a compilation of their epitaphs—the dead, after all, have no need to lie and no recourse to change the past. Truth can, therefore, prevail.