Southern Writers Onstage 2012

Posted on December 2, 2011

Georgia State University and Theatrical Outfit are Proud to Present:

Southern Writers Onstage 2012

Organized by Pearl McHaney.

Time:         Mondays, 7:30 pm, February 6, February 20, March 12, April 23, 2012
Location:     Balzer Theater at Herren’s, Home of Theatrical Outfit, Luckie Street, Atlanta
Tickets:    No Charge, Open to the Public. Doors open at 7 pm.


Southern Writers Onstage 2012 presents the lives and work of Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor and other southern writers to the public through a variety of presentations: lecture, music, readings, dramatizations, discussions.


The New Agrarians, February 6
Kate Campbell, Pierce Pettis, and Tom Kimmel, music trio, will perform songs written from Southern literature and history that are about the south and have southern themes.

Richard Wright, February 20
E. Roger Mitchell will present “A Dramatic Reading from Black Boy.”  
Celebrating Black History Month

Zora Neale Hurston, March 12
Kim Brockington will present her one-woman show Zora!
Talk-back with Valerie Boyd, author of Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
Celebrating Women’s Month

William Faulkner, April 23
John Maxwell performs his play "'Oh, Mr. Faulkner, Do You Write?’”

Detailed Overview:

“To a large extent, a writer cannot help the material of his fiction. That is, he cannot help where and when he happened to be born. That is, … he has to live somewhere and somehow and with others, and survive through some history or other if he is here to write at all.  But it is not to escape his life but more to pin it down that he writes fiction (though by pinning it down he no doubt does escape it a little.) And so certainly he does chose his subject.  [And ] . . . a writer’s subject, in due time, chooses the writer—not of course as a writer, but as the man or woman who comes across it by living and has it to struggle with” (Eudora Welty, “Words into Fiction” 141).

Southern Writers Onstage 2012 presents the lives and work of Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor and other southern writers to the public through a variety of presentations: lecture, music, readings, dramatizations, discussions.  The purpose of the series is create a better understanding of the interplay of history and literature, of personal and public responses to historic events, of the power of literature to provide a safe place to explore social, economic, and racial tensions.

Eudora Welty explained the mission of the humanities succinctly when she wrote, “Mutual understanding in the world being nearly always, as now, at low ebb, it is comforting to remember that it is through art that one country can nearly always speak reliably to another, if the other can hear at all. Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, indeed, but truth” (782).  This series’ participants will help us understand the important truths of the lives and work of several individual southern writers.


The series  is a collaborative effort of Georgia State University’s English, Communications, Women Studies departments, and the Theatrical Outfit at the Balzer Theater at Herren’s, free and open to the public.


Sponsored by:

GHC Logo


New Agrarians, February 6

The Agrarian poets, Donald Davidson, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate were so named because they (along with others) argued for an agrarian way of life for southerners to combat the corrupting effects of the industrial north.  But they are also supported the outpouring of the literature and culture that became known as the Southern Renaissance. Kate Campbell, Pierce Pettis, and Tom Kimmel have successful songwriting, recording, and performance records of their own, but together they form the trio “The New Agrarians.” Their songs are written from Southern literature and history, are about the south and have southern themes. The southern region’s people and past and present are illustrated in literature and music to aid our understanding of human relationships, of others, and of the South itself.  The New Agrarians and humanities scholar Pearl McHaney will engage the audience in a talk back discussion.

Visit the musicians' individual websites at:, and

Richard Wright, February 20

Richard Wright, best known as the author of the biography Black Boy and the novel Native Son, defined racial tensions and struggles, poverty, urban life, and the black man’s anger in the 20th century through his life and his writing. He also published Twelve Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States, a book of photographs from the FSA files and essays. E. Roger Mitchell will discuss Richard Wright, his life and writing and present “A Dramatic Reading from Black Boy.” Mitchell and humanities scholar Pearl McHaney will conduct talk back discussion. This program is scheduled during Black History month. 

Zora Neale Hurston, March 12

Zora Neale Hurston grew up in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, studied in New York City with anthropologist Franz Boas, traveled in the Caribbean and the U.S. South on research trips and finally wrote the fiction that has changed so many lives, in particular Their Eyes Were Watching God. She is the literary mentor for Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and almost every African American woman writer of last forty years. Stage, TV, and film actress Kim Brockington will present her one-woman show Zora! created from Laurence Holder’s biography of Hurtson. Press for Zora! says it inspires “critical thinking,” and “opens the doors for  . . . learning.” A PBS documentary film of Zora! was produced in 2008. Brockington and Hurston biographer Valerie Boyd will conduct a talk-back discussion. This program is scheduled during Women’s Month.

William Faulkner, April 23

Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author William Faulkner is the greatest American author of the twentieth century.  Many find his work difficult to understand and consequently miss the incredible power of his genius to reveal his readers to themselves. But all who have successfully read any of Faulkner’s work do not forget that power nor the mystery of how a writer can imagine the human condition with such complexity. John Maxwell, actor, writer, and assistant professor of theater at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi helps us understand the man with his play “’Oh, Mr. Faulkner, Do You Write?’” that he has presented worldwide, to the Faulkner family and to the Nobel Laureates of Literature.  His script is almost entirely created from Faulkner's words. Maxwell and humanities scholar Pearl McHaney will conduct talk back discussion.



Biographies of Participants

Pearl McHaney is associate professor of American and Southern literature at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.  She is the creator and editor of Eudora Welty as Photographer, winner of the Eudora Welty Prize; Occasions: Selected Writings by Eudora Welty; Eudora Welty: Contemporary Reviews; A Writer’s Eye: Collected Reviews by Eudora Welty; and the Eudora Welty Review, an annual peer-reviewed journal. She has also lectured and published nationally and internationally on work by William Faulkner, Barry Hannah, David Mamet, Natasha Trethewey, and Tennessee Williams. Beginning January 2012, McHaney will be associate dean of fine arts for the College of Arts and Sciences, GSU.

Kate Campbell has recorded more than a dozen albums since 1994. She is one of the musicians who celebrated the Eudora Welty Centennial in Concert. In 2008, Hunter Kelly explained that Campbell’s “lyrics have often been compared to the works of southern wordsmiths Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty, so it's no surprise that several tunes [find] their inspiration in the literary world.  While it may seem daunting to capture the emotion of a finely written novel in a five-minute song, Kate rose to the challenge quite poetically when Gene Cheek asked her to write a song for the audio release of his powerful Jim Crow era autobiography, The Color of Love.  Growing up in the midst of the Civil Rights movement in the '60s, Kate has addressed racial tensions head-on throughout her recording career.”  Kelly reports that Campbell explains, “These issues with race are things I feel strongly about. I keep writing about it as a way to reflect upon the past and to hopefully dialogue toward a better future.” She is a member of the trio The New Agrarians.

Tom Kimmel
is a singer, songwriter, poet, and teacher.  Since the 1980s he has been writing for for musicians such as Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Randy Travis, and Nanci Griffith. He also has seven solo albums, a book of poems The Meanest and the Sweetest, and has conducted song writing workshops in the U.S. and Europe. In 2008 he was Artist in Residence for a collaborative program between Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, Divinity School, and Center for Learning. He is a member of the trio The New Agrarians.

Pierce Pettis is a singer, songwriter, musician whose songs are recorded by Joan Baez, Art Garfunkel, Garth Brooks, and Dar Williams. He has more than a dozen CD albums. His recent song Absalom, Absalom, concerns the Biblical son, but the reference to Faulkner’s novel of the same title is unmistakable. Pettis is “one of the more vital and critically acclaimed folk stars of recent years” according to Performing Songwriters Magazine. Sing Out magazine writes “Pierce Pettis doesn’t write mere songs, he writes literature...End to end the songwriting is brilliant.” He is a member of the trio The New Agrarians.

E. Roger Mitchell is a highly-regarded stage, film, and TV actor of over thirty screen productions. He has appeared on Atlanta stages in dozens of plays including Miss Evers Boys, Flyin’ West, Gem of the Ocean, and Sunset Limited. Of Mitchell’s performance in this last play (by Cormac McCarthy), AJC reviewer Bert Osborne wrote, “Mitchell … deliver[s] nothing less than his most astounding work to date.”  Mitchell was recently seen in the historically significant play by Calvin Ramsey, The Green Book.

Kim Brockington is a graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She studied and worked with Susan Batson and Lloyd Richards. She has participated in Shakespeare in Paradise and the National Black Theater Festival, Off-Broadway and national theater productions. She researched the life and writings of Zora Neale Hurston working with Hurston biographers and scholars to create Zora! that she performed at the American Place Theater and the Kennedy Center and then the documentary PBS film Zora, Jump at the Sun.

Valerie Boyd is Associate Professor and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia and is the author of the acclaimed biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. She was featured in the PBS documentary on Hurston. Her second book Spirits in the Dark: The Untold Story of Black Women in Hollywood is being published by Knopf/Random House.

John Maxwell is assistant professor of theater and theater history at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi. John Maxwell said in regards to William Faulkner, “I was obsessed with the man.  And when I read the letters that were published by Random House, I knew I wanted to write a one-man show based on his life.” Maxwell worked with the Faulkner heirs and with humanities and Faulkner scholars to write his play from Faulkner’s words, drawing from letters, essays, novels. He has performed the show throughout the United States, for the Nobel Laureates of Literature gathered for the Cultural Olympiad of 1996, in Europe and Asia.