Monday, July 21, 2008

After a big project is finished, I like to reflect on it a bit. Guess Whose Hair I'm Wearing turned out very differently than I had planned. I don’t mean that in one of these effete writerly ways of, “Oh I just started writing and the characters took over” (which I find incredibly annoying), but rather in the scope of the play’s subject – Hildegarde and Franklin. I had originally imagined this as a play of Dolson talking about Dolson. A reveal, if you will, of how, what we now call, the Oil Heritage Region had shaped her as a person and a writer. But when people asked me what project I was currently working on, I would say a one woman show about Hildegarde Dolson I was usually, even here in Franklin, met with blank looks.

So, for the record, Hildegarde Dolson Lockridge was a poet, playwright, and novelist who wrote 14 books, including the one that people locally had heard of, if they had heard of any at all, The Great Oildoarado. She was born and grew up here in Franklin, Pennsylvania. August 31st would have been her 100th birthday. After a stint at Allegheny College, she moved to New York City, where she wrote hundreds of articles for the major magazines of the day New Yorker, Harper’s, and dozens of others.

San Francisco Chronicle critic J.H. Task wrote of her 1955 book, Sorry to be So Cheerful, “She can pick any subject, take a brief highly personal look at it and when she puts it down again it will never be quite the same. . . Dolson [writes]deftly, wittily and with just the right dash of residual common sense which makes a funny piece stick in the reader’s mind.”

Yet, today, she is largely forgotten in her hometown. So, with the help of the Barrow Civic Theater, my wife Amy, my daughter Paige, The Franklin Public Library, John McConnell, Rosie Petulla, Ronnie Beith, Senator Mary Jo White, Roland Davis and his wife (who gave me a personal tour of Dolson's childhood home)and others, I began to put together both the research, the writing, and the funding to write and produce the play.

As I began haunting online rare bookshops, buying and reading everything I could find the Dolson had written, I began to change my outline for the play. There seemed something very poignant in the years 1959-1964 in Dolson’s life. In retrospect, readers can see it as a beginning of a turning point in her career, where she will quit writing the sort of essays that brought her fame and adoration and switch to murder mysteries, when she will abandon her free-wheeling “That Girl” persona for marriage to a fellow writer in 1965 and acting as his literary agent. What, I began to wonder, what would it have been like if she came back to her hometown as an honored guest (with all the internal stress of returning home and being expected to perform, both as an artist and in the role of small town girl made good), that was actually a last huzzah before she moved into a new place in her life. I drew largely from her own published writings, adapting them for the stage, cutting out references that were too obscure while attempting to preserve the unique feel of the time, linking them together and trying to tease out the themes that connect all of her pre-detective story writings.

By 2010, this play will be published with a critical bibliography of Dolson’s work. By that time as well, a request for a Pennsylvania Historical Commission marker to acknowledge Dolson and her contribution will have been submitted. If anyone is interested in helping with either of these projects, please feel free in contacting me. Some of you already have and I was deeply heartened by it. Here in Western Pennsylvania, we do a great job of saving the Great White Males, but many other voices have been largely forgotten. It’s my hope that this project will be the first of many that help to reclaim those lost voices of the Oil Heritage Region.

DIY Image Transfer

Yesterday, I saw three people (all in different locations) wearing local band t-shirts (the RickDan band, Veteran Status, and Newmen to be precise). It really made me feel incredibly hopeful about the little nascent scene here.

Golly, wouldn't a Venango Zine Fest be fun?

Thirteen years ago, William Dranginis saw Bigfoot. Fifty grand, a van, and a camera in a log later, the quest continues.

Foot doctor Richard Dunlap has photographed a wide variety of the detritus left by the oil boom. Now, several of the pictures are featured in a new Oil 150 exhibit in the Venango Museum of Science, Industry and Technology in Oil City. The public unveiling is set during an open house from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday , tonight, at the museum.

I've become strangely entranced with Slinkachou's art.:

I can personally vouch for these two; pros through and through and nice people to boot. So why not spend 3 nights and days honing your photographic skills, taking great fall images in the Appalachian mountain area of North East Pennsylvania.

Instructors Jim and Jessica Kronmiller, nationally known photographers, will share their years of experience capturing stunning nature images with a limited class size of 6 students. Allowing for plenty of one on one instruction time.

This workshop will be held October 9th thru the 11th, on the Buck Valley Ranch, a year round resort, and will include lodging (2 or 3 students to a ranch room), a horseback ride, and meals. If you like country style images; old barns, country churches, beautiful landscapes, scenic streams & mountain views, this is the workshop for you. Come enjoy a great fall experience!

Costs: Only $599.00 - includes; meals, lodging, 2.5 hr horseback ride and in-depth instruction.

Reserve your spot for this years workshop before August 30, 2008!

For more information call : (814) 673-0900 or email

Yesterday, Paul Westerberg made available a 44-minute single MP3 file of a dozen-plus songs, dubbed "49," for 49 cents. is handling the commerce via a link from the Westerberg Web site Men Without Ties.

Free and Legal Downloads: lists free and legal downloadable science fiction and fantasy e-books. (via)

Mike Doughty Live at Artscape on July 19, 2008

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Live at All Good Music Festival on July 11, 2008

Explosions in the Sky Live at The Grey Eagle on March 14, 2007

The Black Angels Live at The Grey Eagle on July 4, 2008

Mission of Burma Live at The Bohemian National Home on July 19, 2008

1 comment:

nicocoer said...

Dunno if this is the right way to let you know about something, But Brother Bean will have a live webcast of the National Conference on Disability Issues ( ) On Saturday, July 26th from Noon til 4 pm in the side room (willow room). It's open to the public. Sen McCain will be participating via Telelink and Sen Obama is sending a campaign representative.

More info on the Webcast: