Play treatment

Thu, 06/06/2013 - 08:55 -- sewm02

Play treatment

Play Treatment- This is the planning phase for the script

Audience: Families, Students (college), Community

Time: 1 ½ hour – 2 hours (with intermission)

Setting: -Fire Barrel

-Company Store


Space: Wallman Hall


Actors: 10-12 (even mix of women and men)

(at least 1 African American, has to play a child)

(at least 2 children)

Possibly (4-6) bit actors from community as ensemble


Older Wife (OW)

Younger Wife (YW)

Second Older Woman (OW2)

Nate, son of second older woman, a high school football player

Newly Wed (NW)

College girl (CG)

Sam, the company store manager

JR, the local photographer

Pitt 1 - newspaper reporter

Pitt 2 -newspaper photographer

Ohio - TV reporter

Rev - Dick's character

Preacher - the composite of the preachers

Older miner - dies, seen only in scene 1

Younger miner - dies, seen only in scene 1

Young Black boy (YB) reads newspaper throughout the show...keeps the timeline

Fairmont Reporter (FR) based on Fanny/Peggy

Nurse 1 - needle happy nurse

Nurse 2 - calm nurse

M1 - surviving miner working topside

M2 - vacationing miner, comes back to work rescue

M3 - bathhouse miner




1.) To preserve and conserve local history of the Farmington Mine disaster.

2.) To illuminate the stories of a diverse cross-section of individuals affected by the disaster and to explore their relationships.

3.) To provide the audience with a working knowledge of the disaster and its effects on the community.

4.) To nurture an opportunity for reflection.

Dramatic Elements:

-facts v. fiction

-waiting, suspense


-air (fresh air), air out,

Imagery: random ideas relating to production

Fire barrel lights with explosion and goes out with closing of mine

Headlamps out with death of miner

Reporter’s camera flash reveals images projected on a screen

Content: Every story has two sides. By demonstrating the contrast between characters such as the preacher and various community members versus the outside reporter we will juxtapose the factual elements of the Farmington Mine Disaster v. the human experience collected in the form of ethnographic research. Media elements such audio clips, photographs, and music will be used to reinforce the audiences understanding of the event and broadening the emotional experience.

Theatrical conventions

Video newsclips

Audio clip from the research interviews

Slides -- photographs, information, dates

Newspaper artiles read by the young boy (He is the only one not on the site.) - At one point he scans the names of the survivors (which show on the scene)...he reads some...keeps looking...."He's not there....He's NOT THERE!!!" in reference to his neighbor. At one point he will read the section about the company's press conference....while a phot and tableau of the press conference is behind him. The actor playing Poundstone/McCartney (company representatives) will give the quotes used in the newpaper article.

The local photographer (JR) will directly address the audience.



Pre- show - slides listing towns/mines and what happened there beginning in 1839 and finishing with 8/7/68 River Queen, Greenville KY (just before Farmington). These slides will roll until 7:25.



Richmond VA

Black Heath


53 killed


Preview -- Images from 1968

Accompanied by music of the period.

Hey Jude, Born to Be Wild, Those were the Days, People Got to Be Free, Lady Madonna, and Revolution as well about coal - (see Kathy Mattea's CD. Also, Dr. Kirk has talked to Michael Stewart about writing some songs.)

Scene 1 - Introducing the characters in their daily lives

Lights come up on vignettes of activities of the major characters the evening before and the morning of November 20, 1968.

These vignettes may have dialogue or may be pantomimed. 1. African American boy steals spark plugs. The miner catches him and spanks him.

2. Miner and his wife (older widow) move back furniture and dance to the radio.

3. A teen ager preparing for school the next day;he askes her about her work. She is giving a presentation. (Her father survives. Pull from Charlene's interview)

4. Woman (younger widow) is making husband’s lunch. They talk about the potential new job. He kisses everyone.

5. Surviving miner is working above ground.

Ensemble actors dressed as miners enter through the audience as if going to work. May demonstrate the changing of the shifts – picking up tags, exchanging greetings.

Lights go out and in black fire lights in barrel.

Scene 2 – – Spreading the word about the explosion

None of the characters get all of the information. The scene jumps back and forth between characters just like scene one jumped back and forth. The audience only hears lines of their responses to the phone calls, radio announcements or rumors. When the character is not speaking, he or she is listening or in tableau. The photographer gets his information last. He provides the audience with the most complete information. Be sure the audience gets teh time, date, and place.

Miner who is working above ground get phone call

Older wife (widow) gets a call. She is at her job. (See Mildred Hardman's interveiw)

Young wife (widow) gets a call (She is at the house, getting the kids ready for school)

Teen hears it on car radio.

Boy on playground or in classroom hears rumors/whispering.

Out of town reporters get calls. They are introduced.

Pastor gets phone call --- This is Dick's character

Photographer gets phone call --- This is Bob's character, JR - called Junior by some of the Farmington Women/ After the phone call, JR begins to tell his story to the audience.

At the end of this scene we see a video of national news --- thus the audience get all of the information in one complete report.

(DONNA AND GREG's Comments) Perhaps the reporter could be at the end of this scene. The other characters only give the audience little pieces of incomplete info and a sense of confusion. When the info finally gets to the reporter we get "just the facts" (at least the facts that would be known at this point) in a simple clear manner. Consider that the reporter is carnivorous. His over eagerness to get the info without caring for the people involved will be the conflict of the show. This could be reflected in the the company having to de-humanizing their viewpoint too in order to put the fire out and to bring "closure" to the event? The company had to put the needs of all before the needs of few. Then go into some short video of the national news to provide the transition you need into Scene 4.



Scene 3 - Waiting ----Conflict will develop between people and media.

We see a JR on stage. He is taking pictures. Pictures show up on the scene of the smoke rolling out of the portal. The last photo in the series is the Champion Store. Then lights come up on the Champion store.

A crowd of people is gathering at the Champion Store. As people enter the store they see other families they know. They hurry to talk, embrace and comfort each other. As they do, we hear the yelling of the reporters. There is a chaotic scene with voices and shouting and loud, personal, obnoxious, and biting, questions like “Kids, Kids, hey lady- Lady- give us just a picture?” “How does it feel to know that your husband is buried hundreds of feet below the ground and is suffocating at this moment?” being hurled to the inside of the company store. The store owner/manager yells at the reporters. We hear words like "vultures" used to describe the media. amidst the babble we hear a woman, the older wife, say something to the effect of, “I don’t want them taking my picture or they are all over the place! Where did these people all come from?” We see the reporters plotting..."I think we can get that one to break." A women breaks into sobs causing a chain reaction. "Rev" enters. He is greeted by the store owner/manager who recognizes him and tells him he has to do something about these reporters.

A new group of women and children comes onstage with their faces covered. Again the reporters start shouting while the women try to cover their faces. A slime ball reporter (from Pittsburgh) follows the group in a large women’s trench coat and headscarf attempting to hide his camera. A few women attempt to usher the new women into the room. "Rev" notices the reporter trying to make his way into the inner circle of the worried wives and daughters, grabs him by the scruff of his neck and rips off the woman’s headscarf revealing him. After a brief skirmish, Rev throws him out the door and says we need to keep these people out of here. He and the others proceed to block off a section with plastic covered furniture.

The women are greatful for the protection. They thank Rev. He then notices a young photographer. The photographer (Bob) is trying to quietly photograph a women who has fainted and is being attended to by her friends. As his camera goes up, Rev catches him by the wrist. The photographer explains that he is "local" and just trying to do his job. ---- take dialogue from Bob's interview.

A young man enters. Rev jumps up to greet the young man, the minister of the local parish takes Rev aside and offers his assistance and to take the awaiting families to his parish down the hill. Rev thanks the young minister and takes his party to the parish down the hill. As the women and children exit the store the company representatives begin to file in and make a few impolite comments like, “now we can finally get to work. This is what we came here for; my editor will just love this! Promotion here I come... Man, this is going straight to the front page. Now that these hicks are out of here we can finally get to work.”

Play recording or video of company representatives issuing statements


      • I (Celi) feel that here there needs to be another part about the story teller- maybe a little dialogue about how dangerous coal mining is or one of his immigrant stories? There is specifically the story that he tells of seeing the elevator shaft blown onto a mountain side by the force of the explosion.

Scene 4 Interior of church. There is an altar used as a medicine station. In the church we see the yellow note pads on the wall with lists of miners and methane readings. The feeling is much quieter than at the store

Dick goes around counseling people and as he talks to them the person steps out to tell their story when anyone becomes hysterical a nurse arrives with a sedative.

(After a woman is given a sedative Dick steps out and tells the audience how there had been two nurses there but one of them had been a little drug happy so he had to send her home before the whole church was comatose...hopefully a moment of humor.)

The college girl shows up to comfort her friend. This sets up some survivor guilt.

Company man arrives causing a stir gives his message and leaves. This message could upset the other preacher which is the catalyst for his interaction with Dick. Dick's frantic preacher friend, who is almost mourning as much as those he is trying to help, Dick takes him aside and tries to calm him when this is unhelpful he then asks him to go to Philippi to go get beds the Red Cross was going to donate.

The families are upset because the reporters are getting information and they are not.

The yellow pieces of paper on which the information (gas readings, where men were working) are introduced at the end of the scene. This gives the families a glimmer of hope.

This scene may be divided into two scene. We may go back to the church after Bob's antics.

Scene 5 JR's antics There are several stories about the young photographer scooping the older, out-of-town reporters and photographers.


Scene 6 Fire Barrel


In this scene we get the factual information as well as the folklore related to the explosion. At the fire barrel miners and Dick are discussing the possibility of the company sending a rescue team in. They mention the use of microphones to detect life and take methane readings. The surviving minor is reintroduced here and can tell his account of the explosion.

Enter the reporter dressed as a miner. As the miners are exclaiming that they are all willing to go back in as a rescue team the reporter asks some incredulous questions like what do you mean go back in there. You-we barely made it out last time!Dick recognizes him and outs him a fight between the reporter and miners seems eminent but Dick intervenes and tells the reporter to get the heck out of dodge.

After this a miner breaks down at the invasion of privacy and the disregard for his brothers down in the mine. The reporter begins to have a realization at the pain he is causing the people when a miner collapses in Dicks arms this begins his turn around point. The reporter is shocked that the miners are willing to go back in. Dick pulls a trooper to the side and asks him to keep an eye out for that reporter and any more of his tricks. Enter a company man who pulls Dick away and tells him they are planning on sealing the mine but he then hands dick a note from a disgruntled family member. It states that if they seal the mine before exhausting all options this time he will be taking shots with his hunting rifle. As dick reads this note the voice of the writer is heard over the loud speaker.

The company leaders tell Dick that they have decided to seal the mine, however they won’t do it on thanksgiving but the day after. The managers give him 48 hours to prepare the families and church for the news, but to keep it as far under their hats as possible.

(GREG AND DONNA) Ending with the man's voice saying he is going to shoot people, leaves the audience with the suspense you need to carry into the next Act.

End of Act 1Italic text' Act 2

  • possible storyteller entrance here? An introduction or an observation

Scene 1 Scene begins with the tableau from Act I. The people in the church talk about the possibility of anyone being found alive. Some cots have been added and families are milling around. There is a nurse keeping an eye on the scene. There is one woman who is either crying or chanting hysterically that this is God’s will that this has happened because she didn’t stop smoking. Because she didn’t stop smoking God has filled the mine with smoke and fire- from hell??? (Need to listen to the interview again.) The Nurse takes the old woman out of the room because she is visibly upsetting and returns with a worried look on her face. It becomes obvious the families with mining experience know the chances are slim to none. We see the experienced families try to prepare the others. (Sam, Linda, J.D. Voz, Jonathan)

Dick enters and pulls the nurse aside and tells her they are going to have to set the church to rights and put the pews back because there is going to be an announcement there. Dick is careful to who he reveals the fact that they are going to close the mine to and begins to contact other religious leaders, it is mentioned that a high ranking bishop will be attending the official company announcement.

There is the feeling that everyone knows what the announcement will be but no one is talking about it.

(Individual stories about their perception of waiting for news)

Scene 2 We go back to the story teller who gives more information about the sealing of the mine. During this time the church setting is cleared away and the company store is brought back.

Scene 3

The reporter is starting to realize the damaging effect of his business into the lives of these people.

Option 1-The young wife is standing in the company store by the counter. She asks the shadow of A. James Manchin to go and get her one of the bags of donated groceries from the Salvation Army. She can say they they’ve run out of hot meals for the moment down at the church and she needs something to go and cook for dinner that night. The Shadow leaves and a reporter, not our reporter but one just as sleazy, come up and takes the opportunity that A. James is away to take her picture or “interview” her. Our reporter comes up and tries to make him go away, but the other reporter just sees this as an attempt to steal his shot or story and refuses to back down. The threat of the returning A. James finally makes him back off from the wife. The reporter can see exactly how cruel he has been to these people. The wife and the reporter share a moment of half understanding half compassion half thankfulness before she finally leaves with her groceries.

(DONNA and GREG) At this point you could consider a monologue from the reporter. This will signify that the reporter has now become a "real caring person". His inner thoughts humanize him.

There could be other ways to show the reporter’s revelation as to his treatment. This was just mine. I just want him to see how pestering and rude he has been by viewing his own behavior through another reporter.

Scene 4

The characters gather after their individual stories are finished. The bishops and other religious members come into the church. Gradually the survivors start to file in and take their places. The air is still and funeral like.Next come the religious leaders and other Methodist ministers. Dick comes onstage last and takes his place There is a bishop in the crowd who makes the sign of the cross to bless the crowd and begins with the invocation.

This is one of the stories and we might not be able to fir this in depending on the rhythm of the piece-We need to listen to the tape again, but it should probably say something like observing and honoring the will of God. In the first few words one of the older women, accompanied by the nurse has become agitated- she breaks out into a hysterical wail and makes a break for the cardinal. Dick catches her, returns her to the nurse and she is lead offstage.

The company leaders try to maintain a clam air, but the effort falls flat on its face. The cardinal and ministers are shaken.

monologues about reactions to the announcement

Scene 5

The news reporters prepare and get their equipment ready for the announcement. The company leaders say something to the effect of thank you all for coming there have been some important developments in the Farmington Disaster that we think you should be aware of… House darkens and the clip of the actual video making the decision to seal the mine is played.


One light illuminates each character as they say just a short simple phrase that sums up their experience, feeling, memory, or their look to the future. No specific order, the surviving miner, Dick, the reporter, the wives, and the teenage girl. Black.

Lights back up on the story teller and he finishes the memories of hearing the dump trucks coming with gravel.

(GREG AND DONNA) Overall, really check that the monologues are spread out through the show, and that the major characters introduced at the beginning should have a storyline that flows through the whole show. To figure out where the inner monologues should go, you could create an outline of the different stages in grieving process during this story. What are the significant stages in this story that could use a closer, and more personal look deeper into a character. You may need to consider composite characters. There seem to be a lot of characters (For example, do you need all of the other ministers, and the Bishop?) We feel that the Pastor character needs to really stand out as a pivotal character. Everything is reflected through him. Questions like "How could God take my husband? will be tough things for him to struggle with, as well as having to protect the people from the reporters, and providing the company with the strength to make the tough decision to seal off the mine. Perhaps he guides the audience as well, and develops a more personal relationship with the audience.

Maybe the play needs to end on a reflective "look back" so that the story ends on a more positive note. There is so much good stuff in the oral histories and we would hate to loose that. One possibility, make the account from the "Juicy Fruit" daughter be one of the closing stories (tie-in: she could be the daughter of the young widow, especially since she gives so many details about how her mother dealt with the disaster). This also reflects better on your desire to "nuture an opportunity for reflection."