I COULD not run or play
In manhood I could only sip the cup,
For scarlet-fever left my heart diseased.
Yet I lie here
Soothed by a secret none but Mary knows:
There is a garden of acacia,
Catalpa trees, and arbors sweet with vines—
There on that afternoon in June
By Mary’s side—
Kissing her with my soul upon my lips
It suddenly took flight.
— from Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology”
YE aspiring ones, listen to the story of the unknown
Who lies here with no stone to mark the place.
As a boy reckless and wanton,
Wandering with gun in hand through the forest
Near the mansion of Aaron Hatfield,
I shot a hawk perched on the top
Of a dead tree. He fell with guttural cry
At my feet, his wing broken.
Then I put him in a cage
Where he lived many days cawing angrily at me
When I offered him food.
Daily I search the realms of Hades
For the soul of the hawk,
That I may offer him the friendship
Of one whom life wounded and caged.
This photograph is 25 years old, so I figure I’ll survive the ignominy of people seeing me (apparently) with my fly open. (I actually am inclined to think that is just my shirt corner sticking up past my belt, but whatever.)
It’s partly water under the bridge anyway, as Mary Washington College alumna Anna Martin has already posted this on Facebook. (Thanks, Pal.) Anna is the pretty lass at right in the photo. The camera used here actually had no flash — that’s Anna’s smile lighting up the place.
I’ve mentioned the 1990 MWC Theater Department’s production of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology” here at the blog before; Anna and I are in costume. And this is after dark in the Amphiteater. I am HOPING that my fly is zipped. If it isn’t, then I am HOPING that this is not just after a performance.
The play was actually a student director project — our capable leader was a really cool African-American girl named Tonya. I don’t remember Tonya’s last name. She would have been a senior, I think, which would make her Class of 1991. One of our co-stars was named John-Eric. I believe he was Class of 1994, with Anna and me. If any alums read this and know Tonya or John-Eric, please pass along this link and see if they remember.
The above is excerpted from an engaging article in the Summer 2014 University of Mary Washington Magazine about the planned restoration of the fabled amphitheater — with which I am just thrilled, as it holds some of my favorite college memories.
And the article even quoted me, which I thought was quite flattering — I played Fletcher McGee in a 1990 Theater Workshop production of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology.” I still remember running around that stage after class, trying desperately (and often in vain) to remember my lines, and snacking on chicken sandwiches and fishburgers form Seacobeck Dining Hall.
Check out page 24 of the magazine, linked below, for details about the project, which has been spurred on by a $1 million gift from Robert S. and Alice Andrews Jepson. The project sounds like it will create a great space — a modernized amphitheater that will seat 600, but with all of the classical architectural features with which it was originally built in the early 1950’s. I can’t wait to see it when it is finished, and it would be great fun to round up a few alumni to attend a student production there.