Milestones: A Dramedy in Two Acts is showing June 9-19, 2022!
Revisiting their emotional roots in Southern Appalachia becomes a journey of discovery for a disgruntled aging couple. Each twist and turn in the road leads them toward forgiveness and healing.
We reached out to playwright, Gale Gooch Alexander, to find out more about her and her experience creating this play.
What inspired you to write this play?
In 2016, my husband and I took a 32-day road trip from Wyoming to the East Coast and back west through southern Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. We visited places where we lived during the first decade of our marriage and visited many of the people who had been our friends and mentors during those early years. On the trip, I kept a daily journal and was amazed at how each segment of the trip gave me new insights about how rich our life together had been. Returning home, I read the journal, expanded on a few encounters and themes, and felt a cohesive story forming from those 32 pieces. When coronavirus quarantine locked me in the house with that story, it evolved from a journal to a draft for a book of inspirational essays, and eventually landed as a stage play.
What is the message of this play and why is it so important?
Lives are molded by where we live and the people who live there. A single person who invades your life for a season can be as consequential as those who walk beside you through every milestone. All relationships evolve. Even the broken ones can be restored.
Your play is set in Southern Appalachia. Is this location meaningful? If so, why?
In 1969 I was hired to teach English and Speech at Mars Hill College. I arrived from Texas as a single lady, but a year later was joined by the guy I had left behind. As my new husband, Ron and I loved everything about our life in Mars Hill and would have stayed forever except for his new job and our new baby. Southern Appalachia is where our spirits as a young couple came alive. We were like sponges absorbing the culture, the music, the vistas, and the warm charm of the people. Our time in Mars Hill was transformative, and 52 years later we are still grateful for the privilege of having lived there.
What inspired you to become a playwright?
Our first grandchild was born with a devastating genetic condition, epidermolysis bullosa. EB is a debilitating, progressive skin disease for which there is no cure. It’s called “the worst disease you’ve never heard of” for a sad reason. As a grandmother, I felt helpless, but I knew I could raise money to help families who couldn’t afford the astronomical costs of medical care and supplies for their children with EB. Three of my best friends wanted to help. We had shared the stage in “Steel Magnolias” and together we wrote, produced, and performed in “What Were We Talking About?” We raised $120,000 for EB through shows in Wyoming, New Jersey and Kentucky. We loved everything about doing that show, but it wasn’t until seven years later and a pandemic quarantine that I decided to write another play.
Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring playwrights?
Everyone has a story to tell. Find a “Playwriting for Dummies” book and tell your story. Write the first draft only for yourself, then let people you respect read and critique. After you get thumbs up on the basic plot and characters, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
What’s your favorite thing so far about working with SART?
Chelsey advocated for SART to take a chance on an unknown first-time playwright, and Jamie gave her time and skill to fine tune my script.
Are you working on any upcoming projects? If so, tell us about them.
“Blackland” is a one act play that tackles the role environment and family upbringing bring to personal racial prejudice. I was raised in the segregated South and was a college student when integration began. I still struggle when stereotypes cloud my perceptions. I am working with the University of North Texas to make the play a Performance Art production that will be a springboard for community conversations on this volatile issue.
“The Crack in the Canyon” is a fantasy play for older children and young adults that tells of a small band of Lakota Indians who found refuge in a magic cave on Casper Mountain. Within this crack in the canyon wall, time stood still until an ancient prophecy was fulfilled by two adventurous boys. Work still needs to be done for validation from the Arapahoe and Shoshone tribes who live in Wyoming. My hope is that the Wyoming Council for the Humanities might fund a touring production in the State.
Are there themes you feel drawn to talk about? Why?
I taught Interpersonal Communication for 25 years and believe that the quality of life begins and ends with how well we learn to get along with people. I’m drawn to simple themes about communicating to strengthen bonds with the people who are most important to us.
Who are some playwrights that have inspired you?
Robert Harling “Steel Magnolias”. It is such a simple story, but it has changed lives and stood the test of time. Don’t get me started! We spend our winters in Shreveport, Louisiana, just 45 miles from Natchitoches, Harling’s hometown and setting for the play. In early 2019 I drove down there and went to an Estate Sale in the Harling home. As I walked through the house and stood in his childhood room I thought, “Bobbie Harling was raised the same way I was. If he can write a simple play that changes lives, so can I!” Two weeks later the pandemic blind-sided us and at age 76 I started work on “Milestones.”
For Gale Gooch Alexander, something good came from the isolation imposed by coronavirus pandemic. She began to explore playwriting and wrote two scripts that have been favorably recognized.
Gale was born and raised in North Central Texas, graduating from the University of North Texas with a BS in English and Drama and an MS in Speech Communication. In 1970 she and husband Ron began their married life in Mars Hill, North Carolina where
Gale taught English and Speech at Mars Hill University. They have lived in Casper, Wyoming, since 1979 and are now retired Instructors from Casper College and The University of Wyoming. Since retirement, their summers are spent enjoying the beautiful outdoor life in Wyoming, but in the winter, they return to their southern roots in Shreveport, LA to read, write, reunite with family, and reflect.
At Casper College, Gale was a Communication Instructor, Forensics Director, and
Administrator. She was the recipient of several teaching awards and presented
motivational speeches and workshops for a wide variety of civic, educational, church,
business, and non-profit organizations all over the country.
Gale has been involved in Theater for most of her life as an actor, drama teacher, director, and now a playwright. Her favorite roles have been as Clairee in “Steel Magnolias,” Sarah Beth in “What Were We Talking About?” and playing opposite her husband as Ida Straus in “Titanic the Musical”, and Mrs. Anthony Kirby in “You Can’t Take It With You.”
“What Were We Talking About?”, a collaboration with three friends, was produced in
Wyoming, New Jersey, and Kentucky. Reacting to rising racial tensions in the country, “Blackland” was born from her reflections on being raised in the segregated South. “The Crack in the Canyon” is a fantasy for Children’s Theater. “Milestones” is her first solo script.
Her book, “Gift of Hope Through a Child’s Severe Illness” was published in 2016. On
file in her home office are dozens of poems, outlines, rough drafts and notes for future writing adventures. She has been described as a woman whose mind is a fertile field of fantastic fantasies fighting to take flight!
Milestones: A Dramedy in Two Acts is showing June 9-19, 2022. Grab your tickets here: https://www.sartplays.com/milestones