Q&A: Linda Parsons Marion, playwright, 'Decoration Day'

On Aug. 6 at 2 p.m., the Knox County Public Library will host a table reading of Linda Parsons Marion’s new play, Decoration Day. Set in Hawkins County, it is the story of two families meeting when one comes to clean a family cemetery on the other’s property. An award-winning poet, Marion is also an editor for the University of Tennessee’s internal audit department.

Is the play straightforward, or more modernish?

It’s a combination—straight in that it takes place in the fairly current time, the mid-1990s, but interwoven are flashbacks to the 1930s. Another layer are points where the characters talk to the audience in a linked type of conversation—one character picks up on a word that a previous character has spoken. I tried for a range of theatrical effects, both straight and kind of unusual, and I hope a little surprising here and there.

The play is set in Hawkins County. How far is that from Knoxville?

About 60 miles. It’s my husband, Jeff Daniel Marion’s, home county, and the seed, the core of the play, is a family story. We would drive past his grandmother’s old homeplace, as he calls it—homeplace, one word—which was sold when she died in the 1960s. Danny would tell me about his mother, who grew up in that house, and as a teenager survived typhoid. They were told if she lived through the night, she would most likely survive, and one of her sisters said, “I will get you anything you want if you make it through” and she said, “I want a diamond ring.” Somehow this sister was able to get the ring for her. I’m sure it was a tiny stone. And so Danny’s mother wrote her name in her bedroom window pane with that diamond—to prove it was real—and it’s the window pane, the glass and her name, that in the play come to symbolize the family history, and history itself and how the brokenness of it can either bring a family together or pull them apart.

Is there violence involved?

Not really, no. They kind of dance around it a little bit. There is a kind of violence of missed connections in a family and missed opportunities, and trying to mend those—to find your way back into those communications, understandings, appreciation, and, you know, love.

If this script were to hit it big, what would happen to it?

I’m being realistic, in that this is the first play I’ve written in 20 years. I would love for it to see regional theater, to be produced in the Southern Appalachian region in particular. If I were ever fortunate enough for it to move further than that, that would be gravy.

You’re also an editor. Do you edit your own work?

Oh, yes, very much. Being an editor professionally helps enormously in poetry and playwriting. You want to pare down to the essence—image, dialogue, character, momentum, you just want the essence of those things.

Are there any nude scenes?

Not this round, but there’s still a revision to go!

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