Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tent Revival Meeting

Tent revival meeting


Holy Ghost Girl

It was after midnight at the dawn of the 1960s. Donna Johnson was 3, her brother 1, her father gone. Her mother had sold everything — “knickknacks, flatware, all of her slacks” — to join a traveling caravan of evangelists led by the preacher Brother David Terrell. Holding tent revivals in a new town every few weeks, they were essentially carnies, but instead of hawking funnel cakes, they were selling God.

On this particular occasion the family would drive all night to the next stop on the so-called sawdust trail, a circuit of Southern backwaters where miracles were in high demand. Stretched out next to her brother and mother in the back seat of Mr. Terrell’s Falcon, the young Ms. Johnson leaned her head back. The preacher was behind the wheel, his wife and daughter next to him. Ms. Johnson started to drift off.
Then she saw this: “A hand made its way from the front seat to the back and rested, light and tentative as a mayfly, on my mother’s knee. Someone flicked on an overhead light.”  This is the key early moment when “Holy Ghost Girl” turns, as good books must, from promising read into sure bet.

Ms. Johnson’s enthralling memoir, her first book, is about growing up on the road in a clan of what she calls Holy Rollers. She remembers the wood slats of the folding chairs digging into her toddler legs as sermons spun into a fifth hour, and, years later, faking an ecstatic, speaking-in-tongues experience. (“Shondishondishnondi.”) But it’s really Mr. Terrell’s show, and Ms. Johnson’s account unfolds into a fascinating portrait of that preacher and the grip he had on her family.


Revival Night

Bon Apetit with Clara

Clara talks a little about the Depression and then shows us how to cook.  Thanks Erin.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Black Blizzard

The Diviners is set in Indiana, part of the region known as the "Dustbowl," during the 1930's. During the Hoover (and early Roosevelt) administration the United States was hit by the Great Depression, dust storms from loose topsoil plagued the Midwest, and Tent Revivals toured the small towns in America.

On "Black Tuesday" the Stock Market crashed, which was the start of the Great Depression. Unemployment rates increased drastically as companies went bankrupt and the "Roaring Twenties" was officially laid to rest. The worst economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world put a huge strain on companies, farms, and families. Many farms that were already under-productive because of the drought that hit the Midwest were taken over by the government, leaving many families homeless or without a means of living.

There was a mass migration of 'Oakies,' 'Arkies' and 'Indies' to California in search of jobs and food during this time, but this trek was by no means the standard solution. Only a small percent of people affected by the drought in the Dust Bowl moved, and those who did not move were most often afflicted by the economic depression and not directly by dust storms.

The combination of the drought years, which were accompanied by record breaking heavy rains, blizzards, tornadoes and floods, and the constant misuse of the land led to the devastation of the area known as the Dust Bowl. When settlers brought their farming techniques with them as they homesteaded the area in and around the Great Plains, they plowed the grasses that held the soil in place. During World War I, wheat crops were in high demand and the constant planting and reaping exhausted the topsoil. Overgrazing by cattle and sheep herds stripped the western plains of their cover. When the drought hit the midwest there was no real anchor for the soil, and it dried up and blew away. By 1934, the area of the Great Plains had been turned into a desert of sorts. The devastated western third of Kansas, all of Southeastern Colorado, the Oklahoma Panhandle, the northern two-thirds of the Texas Panhandle, and northeastern New Mexico were referred to as a "dust bowl" by one reporter, and the name stuck.

The Dust Bowl was not, by any means, the same thing as the mass exodus of farmers from their lands, it was just in the same area at the same time. In fact, most people who were affected by dust storms in the Dust Bowl did not go anywhere. People often incorrectly use the Dust Bowl, the drought, and the mass migration during the Depression synonymously.

During this period in history, a new form of worship emerged to bring comfort to a beleagered nation. Tent Revivals marked the mutation of Evangelical Protestantism into glitzy specticles. Tents that could hold hundreds or even thousands of people were erected throughout the countryside and eagerly attended. At these gatherings, sins would be publicly confessed and forgiven, hymns were sung and scripture read, and damnation and hellfire were preached. Some of the most prominent names in revivals were Father Divine, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Indiana's own Billy Sunday.


In a small farm community during the depression water and faith are in short supply. A charismatic but back-sliding preacher drifts into town and meets a gentle but misunderstood boy with the gift of divining or water-witching. The two outcasts find a common bond and help each other divine for truth, faith and hope. The townspeople though demand the preacher return to a way of life he no longer believes in and it drives both men to a crisis of trust. Jim Leonard Jr.’s earthy, funny, poignant and profoundly tragic play has echoes of Steinbeck’s classic depression era work. The characters are simple but good people searching for hope and something to believe in. 

BUDDY LAYMAN.....................Joe Quick
JENNIE MAE LAYMAN............Mycah Artis
FERRIS LAYMAN......................Gordon Clark
C.C. SHOWERS..........................Joe Baumann
NORMA HENSHAW..................Colleen Bethea
DARLENE HENSHAW..............Allison Hope
GOLDIE SHORT.........................Erin Hoffman
BASIL BENNETT...................... Bill Henson
LUELLA BENNETT...................Mara McGill
DEWEY MAPLES......................Danny Bethea
MELVIN WILDER.....................Kris Vitols