Section: Arts

Maria Brescia-Weiler ’19 spins sociology coursework into play

In Rooted: Stories of Knox County, Kenyon students and lifelong Knox County residents come together to share stories about their communities.

The project began in the Life Along the Kokosing class with Professor Emeritus of Sociology Howard Sacks, researcher and playwright of Rooted Maria Brescia-Weiler ’19 said. Her mission was to fully research and document the autobiographical narrative of one Knox County resident.

That single interview not only served as an assignment for the class, but also sparked Brescia-Weiler’s theatrical creativity. She began to imagine the structure for a play. She would interview a few Knox County residents: people who live in Mount Vernon, Gambier and the surrounding areas, and who hold all kinds of positions. From there, she would compile the interviews into a play about the stories of people who love their county and people who find their home problematic or alienating at times.

Rooted will go up in Mount Vernon in collaboration with MTVarts, a Mount Vernon theater production company. The play is a series of dramatized readings of the edited interviews. It was inspired by The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman’s 2000 play about the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, which brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws in many states. Brescia-Weiler compiled and connected the interviews over the summer, placing contrasting narratives together.

“I always wanted to do a play and this summer I read the interviews over and over again and started copying and pasting … I do think the themes really kind of merged on their own, which made it easier,” she said.

Brescia-Weiler, along with her co-authors on the paper — Sarah Aguilar ’19, Mary Grace Detmer ’19 and Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman ’19 — ultimately spoke with fifteen residents of Knox County in thirteen interviews to write the final paper, “Stories of Knox County.” The result of those interviews? A few surprising trends.

“The play is structured by these emotional trends that emerged,” Brescia-Weiler said. She saw similarities in the thoughts of people from a diverse age range, populated with people of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. “Like both an 88-year-old and an 18-year-old said that we just need to be communicating better, which is really cool.”

One general trend was the worry about drug usage in Knox County. “There were a lot of concerns about safety here,” Brescia-Weiler said. “But there’s also a deep appreciation for being in a community of this size.”

Each of the stories depicted in Rooted has a common thread of plot and a purpose. “Especially since, over the past year, so much has been written about rural communities,” Brescia-Weiler said. “I think I’m trying to let people in this community speak for themselves.”

Rooted: Stories of Knox County opens Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. at Warehouse 13 in Mount Vernon.

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