Turners Falls poet crafts debut tragic play

  • Beverly Ketch, right, sings in her one-act play at The Root Cellar in Greenfield. She is joined by Wednesday Knudsen on guitar and Sarah Lanzillotta, who plays the young maiden at left. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • A hunter, played by Paul LaBrecque, has killed a beloved deer, played by Abby Rusk, in a one-act play at The Root Cellar in Greenfield. The maiden, played by Sarah Lanzillotta, is distraught, as regularly watching the deer from her home had given her hope. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ


For the Recorder
Published: 2/6/2019 3:59:03 PM

With her debut tragic play, Turners Falls resident Beverly Ketch brings together all of her most beloved art forms: music, poetry, theater and live-action performances.

Ketch summarizes her play, called “The Maiden, The Hunter and The Stag,” as “a story-book come-to-life version of a ballad. So, the ballad that is sung is acted out by the players and it concludes with a departure from the action that is meant to summarize the feelings. It’s a musical play.”

The play itself, which was performed at The Root Cellar in Greenfield last month, is about seven minutes long, but sweet, thoughtful and ultimately, mournful. On the right, two mermaids sit on rocks playing guitar (Wednesday Knudsen) and singing the ballad (Ketch), which is the only sound heard in the first part of the play. On the left, a young maiden (Sarah Lanzillotta) busies herself in a small kitchen. She is often sad and hopeless about life. Every day, she watches a majestic deer (Abby Rusk) through the window that gives her hope and the courage to keep going.

One day, a hunter (Paul LaBrecque) kills the stag. The maiden is distraught, and the hunter is deeply moved by her intense grief over the beautiful beast. They both realize, though, that they still need to eat it to survive. The play ends with two women (also Abby Rusk and Hannah Brookman) relaxing in a living room and having the only audible dialogue, with Rusk referencing the song about the stag and saying how she wishes life could be different.

Ketch first conceived of the play while she “was driving along, right in the middle of Greenfield, and out of the blue the story of the play came to my mind, and I was very moved by it and I even cried!” She added, “when I went home, the poem just poured out of me, and I was really pleased with that.”

Although Ketch has some ideas for other plays, she said this one came to fruition because “Sarah (Lanzillotta) invited me to create a play, and she did that wonderful thing that sometimes friends do, especially when you’re in an artistic community, of putting you on the spot and giving you an opportunity that prompts you to do something you would not otherwise have done.”

She was excited for the opportunity and said, “It’s my love of sets and props and having something visually to feast on that makes me want to create a play — even though I’m such a verbal person.”

Ketch wrote the play and directed the show, but she emphasized that it was a cooperative effort. She works on numerous other projects with Lanzillotta, Rusk and Brookman. For example, they’re working with Montague Community Television and Greenfield Community Television to create a children’s show. They also head Looky Here Inc., a nonprofit at 28 Chapman St. seeking to do creative projects all over town.

Ketch’s own love for poetry and the arts is rooted in her childhood.

“I discovered that I love poetry in English class. I had this great teacher, Mrs. Merritt, and when I read ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ — I mean, I must have been 13 — I was floored. It showed me how delightful that type of rhythm of words and the intensity of the meaning behind them can be.”

Additionally, she attributes her love of poetic sounds to her upbringing.

“I also grew up on the King James version of the Bible,” Ketch said. “I’m pretty grateful for that, in terms of my poetry. For one thing, having been read to, but also that version of the Bible is incredibly beautiful and lyrical.”

Goshen-born Ketch breaks in many ways from the Hollywood stereotype of a writer. For one, she’s not a classically trained academic. She never completed her studies at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, instead maintaining, “my real education came from the fact that I fell in with a group of poets who ate and slept and breathed poetry.”

She cited Laura Riding Jackson, William Butler Yeats and Theodore Roethke as some of her main literary influences, adding that she was floored when she learned that Jackson hated Yeats’ poetry.

She does not embody the starving artist trope either, as she is a full-time employee of the Department of Public Works, where she works as a janitor in the town hall, the libraries and the public works building itself.

However, Ketch said she’s also “not one of these retreating, quiet poets,” either.

“For me, it’s much more social. I don’t know if for most people writing is more private, but it isn’t for me.”

Ketch and her husband are members of the psychedelic folk band Viewer, and were previously in The Bunwinkies. Now that both of her children are grown, she has even more time to invest in the arts community.

Ketch’s play will be staged again on Feb. 14 at 8:30 p.m., as an introductory act for The Heartbreak Ball at The Root Cellar, 10 Fiske Ave. in Greenfield.

To read Ketch’s poetry, visit her personal blog at nickelcoinqueen.blogspot.com.

Nicole Braden-Johnson of Conway is the author of “Unheard Melodies,” a monthly poetry column in the local “The Visitor,” and has also been published in several literary journals. She is always on the lookout for poetry news and events, and can be reached at bradennicole@gmail.com. Visit her website at unheardmelodiesnkbj.blogspot.com.

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