The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Kentucky Cycle, as its title suggests, is actually a series of nine short plays dramatizing the interrelated history of three fictional southeastern Kentucky families over two hundred years. The plays are grouped in two parts that may be performed in all-day sessions (with lunch or dinner breaks) or on consecutive evenings. Part 1 consists of five short plays (with their times) titled “Masters of the Trade” (1775), “The Courtship of Morning Star” (1776), “The Homecoming” (1792), “Ties That Bind” (1819), and “God’s Great Supper” (1861). Part Two consists of the four short plays titled “Tall Tales” (1885), “Fire in the Hole” (1920), “Which Side Are You On?” (1954), and “The War on Poverty” (1975).

The Kentucky Cycle begins when Kentucky is “a dark and bloody ground,” a beautiful but uninhabited hunting ground and battleground for several American Indian tribes who do not believe the land can be owned. This American Indian belief looms like an ominous curse over the rest of the cycle, as whites claim, inhabit, and despoil the land. The belief literally fits the first three plays in which former Irish indentured servant Michael Rowen (who killed his Georgia master) viciously kills his way to ownership of some Kentucky land, subdues a surviving Cherokee maiden as his mate, and in turn is viciously killed by their son, Patrick. Patrick also kills the neighbor Joe Talbert, takes Talbert’s daughter Rebecca as his bride, and consolidates their land.

These events precipitate a family feud that lasts for generations. In the fourth play, “Ties That Bind,” Jeremiah Talbert, Joe’s son, uses...

(The entire section is 683 words.)