blackbirdonline journalFall 2009  Vol. 8  No. 2

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DAVID CAUDLE | The Common Swallow

Author’s Commentary

In the summer of 2006, I had the great privilege to develop my play Likeness at the New Harmony Project in New Harmony, Indiana. The New Harmony Project is peopled with talented, supportive writers, actors, directors, dramaturges, and theatre enthusiasts. The lovely, mystical town hugs the eastern bank of the Wabash River. Illinois lies just opposite. New Harmony has a fascinating history, having been founded in 1814 as a utopian society by a religious group called the Harmonists and later inhabited by a secular commune. The town still bears traces of a supportive, communal society, but just outside its idyllic borders, I saw much to remind me that Middle America, our Heartland, is losing its heart.

In The Common Swallow, a mythical Midwestern town’s only thriving, cohesive community lives in muddy nests under a bridge. This bridge spans the Wabash, joining Indiana and Illinois. The play’s unnamed town lies in the same spot as New Harmony, but like much of Middle America, it is hardly harmonious.

Drugs, the internet, and big business are dissolving communities as quickly as global warming is melting the glaciers. Crack and crystal meth are infiltrating even the quaintest hamlets. Blogs and chat rooms create false, impersonal connections while discouraging real interaction. Cable news channels are putting local papers out of business. Megachain stores will soon overtake the smallest of markets, driving mom-and-pop stores to the brink of extinction.

Now is not the time for individuals to feel isolated in this country. We are in desperate need of that old-fashioned sense of community to pull us through these tough times. In The Common Swallow, the characters grasp for connections. If they fail, it’s not for lack of trying, though some may sabotage their own efforts. It’s my hope that the play will remind the reader or audience to nourish and cherish those near at hand.

Note: The Common Swallow was developed in the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages. It is being presented as part of the Howl! Festival in New York City, which has celebrated and defined the arts community on the Lower East Side for years. This year, the Howl! Festival announced the establishment of the Howl! HELP Fund to make health care available to uninsured downtown artists. Proceeds of ticket sales from The Common Swallow go directly to Howl! HELP, which is administered by The Actors Fund.  bug

   Characters and Setting  |  Act One  |  Act Two