Our Own Dixie Land

 

This four-act play opens as Diantha and her family greet her father, Benjamin, as he returns from a mission to England on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.They are surprised as he introduces his companion, Nancy Meedham, as his new wife, and are offended that he does not introduce them as part of his family, as well.However, the Mormon communities of nineteenth-century Utah were designed to be close-knit, centered around a town or village, and it is not long before Benjamin must tell Nancy the truth, and make more honest introductions. The distrust that Dianthaís family cannot hide, and the new relationships that are formed, are explored throughout the first half of the play.††

It is in the context of a budding religion in the middle of a salty Utah territory that Diantha must grow to adulthood and choose the direction for her life.She watches carefully as she sees her Aunt Almera (her motherís cousin, and her fatherís second wife) sent to Idaho to avoid being captured by federal marshals.She lives in the shadow of her mother, and craves the flirtatious attention of young men her own age, even as her father repeatedly tries to marry her off in polygamy to elders in the church.However, she also develops the capabilities of a Latter-Day Saint woman who, as many such women did, must fill in the voids left by absent male family members:she takes a job as mercantile accountant, because the elders tout womenís suitability to perform accounting; she assists her mother Minnie in running a farm without the assistance of men; and she admires the beauty of the cloth woven by her Aunt Almera.Diantha also learns to cultivate a deep friendship with Nancy, despite efforts by Minnie to maintain an adversarial relationship with her new co-wife.By the end of the play, Diantha has learned enough to make her decision, and finds she must have the strength to justify that decision to her family and to her community.

 

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Play Structure:

4 Acts:Act I, 6 scenes; Act II, 8 scenes; Act III, 2 scenes; Act IV, 4 scenes

Cast size:

6

 

Gender:

4 female, 2 male

Period:

1887

Location:

Leeds, a Mormon village several miles outside of St. George, Utah

Set:

An empty stage with sparse utilitarian furniture, such as folding chairs.

Technical:

Sound specials for horses, carriages, gunfire offstage

 

 

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Production History

 

Our Own Dixie Land received its premiere production by Radiant Theatre in Portland, OR, on July 17, 2005, as part of Emergence (a festival of plays by women).The festival was curated by Anna Soderberg.The play was directed by Ret Beadnall, with Tara Coen as Stage Manager, and was performed by the following cast:

 

 

Diantha

Rynice Hanson

Minnie

Tina Connolly

Benjamin

Jim Underwood

Nancy

Cassie Skauge

Daniel

Kris Wallsmith

Almera

Kathryn Michel

Sister Webb

Elisabeth Underwood

Second Woman

Gail Mills

Daughter Webb/Dora

Adelle Underwood