The Commerce Journal

Features

November 2, 2007

"Down in the dark...' is a stunning production

After three coal miners become trapped, their womenfolk bemoan their fate in “Digging Up the Boys.”

The 1930s-era mining drama, written by Texas A&M-Commerce; alumna Laura Lundgren Smith, is directed by Dr. John Hanners on the Main Stage of the Texas A&M-Commerce; Performing Arts Center.

As a powerful explosion followed by smoke occurs, miners Jack (Jacob I. Layton), Paul (Atseko Factor) and Floyd (Nathan Jacobs) find themselves stranded deep below ground.

In the meantime, Jack’s sister Ruth (Rachel Fields), Paul’s pregnant wife May (Lekethia Dalcoe) and Floyd’s 16-year-old daughter Addie (Kristi Lee) learn about the catastrophe at the mine. Even though the women desperately want to find out what the company is doing to rescue the men, they remain helpless because of the company’s continuing lack of actual concern about their employees and because of corrupt government officials who look the other way concerning mine safety.

Much of the action occurs near the entrance to “Mine 1,” where boozy and cynical mine foreman (Barry A. Berryhill), a loyal company spokesman, guards the portal.

At first he tells the women that there is hope.

“I figure the company will start digging for them tomorrow,” the foreman said.

Later he reveals what his actual role is.

“I’m a soldier,” he said. “I work for soldiers for 30 pieces of silver.”

The tired and hungry miners and the women are tied to the mine. All lament the fact that they owe their souls to the company store.

Surreal moments include the scene where the men climb up from underground, and May and Paul do a macabre dance, and when Ruth says, “We’re whistling in the dark” and a trio of whistlers punctuate the darkness.

A stunning poetic production, “Digging Up the Boys” evokes past times, and sadly, present times when men continue to risk their lives to mine below ground. The story of these three men and three women is the universal tale of women desperately trying to save their men from foundering.

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