Higher Ground 4: Foglights, an original dramatic musical exploring the foggy future of the east Kentucky coalfields, opened Thursday September 19th at the Eastern Kentucky Social Club in Lynch, Kentucky. The play, presented by the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College (SKCTC), is part of a larger community effort to use the arts to build community and revitalize the county. It is the result of a two-year collaboration between students in Appalachian Studies, music, drama, and art classes at the college, and a coalition of community members and visiting artists. Over sixty community residents worked with Director Richard Geer of Community Performance International (CPI) and SKCTC Professor of Music Ann Schertz to produce Foglights. The production includes stories told by local actors, songs written and performed by local musicians, murals and sculptural reliefs created by local artists, and is supported by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission, ArtPlace America, and the Robert E. Frazier Foundation.
The script for Foglights was written by Higher Ground cast members and area high school and community college students with support from CPI, and mixes stories from Harlan County’s dramatic history with scenes exploring the fault lines and bridges between the generations in contemporary Harlan County. The musicians and storytellers in Foglights dramatize the pressures and joys of living in today’s coalfields. The Eastern Kentucky Social Club, the site of Foglights opening night, is an African-American organization with chapters across the United States. From its headquarters in Lynch, the EKSC helps black families with Harlan County roots stay connected with each other and the homeplace. After playing to capacity crowds made up of a mix of family and friends of the cast, visiting former community residents, arts and Appalachian Studies aficionados, and folks from other communities looking to learn how to do their own community performances, Foglights traveled to Pine Mountain Settlement School for shows on the afternoons of September 28th and 29th. Pine Mountain Settlement School, an environmental education and community center on the north side of Pine Mountain celebrating its centennial in 2013 staged Foglights outdoors under a large circus tent, and the performances included picnics afterwards. A festive carnival atmosphere prevailed.