A Large & Startling Figure
The Harry Crews Online Bibliography
Best Women's Stage Monologues of 1991, The
Jocelyn A. Beard, Editor.
Josephine Abady, Introduction.
Smith & Kraus Publishers, Incorporated, 1992.
Excerpt from "Blood Issue."
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By Southern Playwrights: Plays from the Actors Theater of Louisville.
Michael Bigelow Dixon & Michele Volansky, Editors.
Lexington KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1996.
Blood Issue was commissioned for the 13th Annual Humana Festival of New Plays by the Actor's Theatre of Louisville, which regularly payed the highest commissions among non-profit theaters to well-known playwrights and authors (like Crews, who had not ever written for the theater). The festival, an event attended by critics and theater professionals, consisted of seven plays in three days.
Blood Issue was performed on March 3, 1989. One reviewer wrote: "So discomfiting was it for Harry Crews, the craggy-faced Florida novelist and onetime wild man, to listen to an audience reacting to his first stab at theater that he 'watched' much of Blood Issue with his head bowed, his eyes clamped shut, and his straw cowboy hat pulled down in the neighborhood of his nose." A second reviewer noted that "[a]fter reworking, this commission could go places," while a third called Blood Issue, "the festival favorite."
In 1990, R. Joseph Adams, the maverick director of Spirit of the Horse Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, selected Blood Issue for production and scheduled the play to run from April 20th to May 14th.
The local press gave good reviews to Adams' production: "Director John Clark Donahue has drawn a first-rate performance from nearly everyone in the cast. Indeed, Donahue probably has made the play better than it actually is, for he has tapped every ounce of its humor and brought an ominous tone to the unfolding plot that the denouement, regrettably, does not entirely justify."
Blood Issue occurs over two days at a family reunion in South Georgia. The black sheep brother, Joe, a writer of things published in men's skin magazines and a drinker of meritous proportions, shows up after missing a funeral and skipping a reunion or two. Joe tangles up with George, the brother who stayed behind to carry on the family way, growing crops and raising a family. George can't stand his brother's dissipation, the drinking, the absence of any sign of settlement, and especially his writing, which, even worse, their strong-handed mother, Mabel, has read. For much of the first act, the brotherly exchange of barbed sarcasm casts the possibility of domestic violence over the family proceedings.
What drives the play is Joe's relentless efforts to unveil what the family has refused to believe or consider, a secret buried by red Georgia dirt. It is through the hearing of family members recounting their histories, the tradition of story telling, that Joe hopes to learn the secret, what has caused his unsettlement. True to Crews's own version of the South, postulated in his non-fiction, "A Small Boy on the Floor, Listening," in the final act it will be the women's stories that reveal the hidden truth, "unrelieved by humor and filled with an apocalyptic vision."
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