After 4+ years of research and development, Chenango River Theatre will present the world premiere of Separation Rapid, by noted novelist, screenwriter, NPR contributing correspondent and award winning playwright Susan Arnout Smith.
A true adventure, a love story, a mystery. She would be the first woman to raft the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He would lead the fastest ever trip down the river. Together they’d be the first to make it without life preservers, in a boat hand-built in three days out of scrap lumber. All while on their honeymoon.
In 1928, six months after getting married, the bohemian artist Bessie and Idaho potato farmer Glen Hyde embarked on an epic journey of courage and faith. Their accomplishment would let them escape the drudgery of the potato farm and put them on the booming vaudeville circuit, lecturing with a slide show and getting rich.
Weeks later, when they failed to turn up on time, the national press generated about their story resulted in the first ever aerial search of the Grand Canyon. Their scow was found totally intact, circling in an eddy just below Separation Rapid, just days short of their destination. Their food, gun, Bessie's journal and camera, and box springs (after all, this was their honeymoon) were all found intact. Bessie and Glen had vanished.
To bring this world premiere to the stage, nationally known writer and playwright Susan Arnout Smith was given access to the only existing copy of Bessie’s original diary, still stored at the Huntington Library in California. A generous donation from an anonymous donor allowed director and set designer Bill Lelbach to spend seven days running the rapids of the famed Colorado – a trip that also included hiking out from the bottom of the canyon up to the South Rim with over 4,000 photographs taken of the journey.
Working with a cast of professional actors headed by Kate Hamil (Bessie) and Dan Sanders-Joyce (Glen), along with a top notch team of designers from around the country, Chenango River Theatre will put the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and this remarkable love story on stage in a world premiere specifically commissioned for the Southern Tier audience. Dan Sanders-Joyce worked for a number of years at some of Chicago’s most highly respected theatre companies before recently moving to LA to pursue feature film and television opportunities. Kate Hamil, who is onstage the entire play as Bessie, is an actor, writer and producer based in NYC. She is a graduate of Ithaca College and recently completed an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility slated to be produced off Broadway in 2012/2013.
Susan Arnout Smith is a third generation Alaskan now living in southern California. An earlier play, Beast, (Tampa Players, Bill Lelbach, directing), won the Stanley Drama Award, the Shiras Institute/Mildred and Albert Panowski Playwriting award, and was a finalist for the L. Arnold Weissberger (New Dramatists) and Drama League of New York awards. She has been a playwright at the National Playwrights Conference, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, where her play, Different, became a Lifetime movie, starring Lynn Redgrave. Her TV movies have aired on CBS, Lifetime and ABC. She has also written thrillers, The Timer Game and Out at Night,which have been published in the United States and other countries and translated into several languages.
MJR Soundesign, out of Portland, Oregon, is creating the extensive list of original sound needed for the project. Costume designer Barbara Kahl (SUNYT Oneonta) will design based on photographs from Bessie & Glen’s actual trip, as well as designing original costumes for the mystical Indian spirits that inhabit the Canyon in this production.
This special project is co-produced by a consortium of Greene area businesses and individuals who wanted to show their support for the importance of producing new plays at CRT. Co-Producers for Separation Rapid include: Bonnie’s Restaurant, Hands on Health Massage Therapy, Focus Salon, Robert & Maureen Larkin, Empire Natural Gas, Sherwood Sportswear, Bonnie Cobb & Bob Nesbitt, Greene Veterinary Clinic, McKinney Real Estate, and Bonnie Cobb & Yvonne Cobb.