Giving a voice to creativity

From the The Brunswick News

From international best sellers like Margaret Mitchell to hometown heroes like columnist Ronda Rich, there is enough Southern flavor in this state to suit the palettes of readers.

Coastal Georgia is no different. With its air of mystery and intrigue, the area has long attracted creative types who have flourished while living under the Spanish moss.

Three writers, in particular, have left an indelible mark on the Golden Isles. And although they lived in different times, their influences can still be felt today.

Fanny Kemble, Eugenia Price and Eugene O'Neill are most frequently associated with the Golden Isles. Each offered something different to Southern writing.

It's an important contribution, one that will be honored at the upcoming Literary Festival in November. All three will be noted as 2012 Georgia Literary Festival Honored Authors.

Various events and activities will be geared toward educating the public about this important part of literary history.

Heather Heath, executive director of the Golden Isles Arts & Humanities Association in Brunswick, organized the author-themed events for the festival. She says each writer brought something special to the area.

Heath and the planning committee have made sure these individuals will get proper attention at the festival, set for Jekyll Island from Nov. 9-11.

"At each Georgia Literary Festival, the location host has the opportunity to honor authors who have a tie to the area in some way," she said. "The planning committee focused on three very different but all hugely significant writers: Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Eugene O'Neill; 19th century British actress Fanny Kemble; and popular historical fiction novelist Eugenia Price."

Here is a little bit of background on these local literary giants:

Fanny Kemble

Fanny Kemble was a woman ahead of her time. Born in England in 1809, she was a brilliant actress who loved literature and writing. Throughout her life, she would be a prolific author of plays, journals, poetry, letters and memoirs. In addition to acting and writing, Kemble spoke fluent French and was an accomplished musician. She loved the natural world and had a passion for riding horses.

In 1832, Kemble set out on a two-year theater tour in America, where she was well received. It was on her tour that Kemble met and married Pierce Butler, a wealthy landowner who owned more than 600 slaves. Butler inherited two plantations in the area - a cotton plantation on St. Simons Island and a rice plantation on Butler Island near Darien.

When Kemble arrived at these plantations, she was horrified by what she found. She had always been a staunch abolitionist, and her stance created friction in her marriage.

Kemble recorded her experiences in letters, which she later compiled and published as her "Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation." Her account has been touted as the most-detailed look at plantation slavery ever recorded by a white abolitionist. The issue of slavery, coupled with Kemble's independent nature, drove a permanent wedge between the couple. The two divorced in 1849. Kemble took a pro-Union position and supported the cause throughout the Civil War.

After the dissolution of her marriage, Kemble helped to support herself by returning to the stage with her highly acclaimed Shakespearian readings.

Kemble died in London on Jan. 15, 1893. To celebrate her life and work, Heath will reprise her role as Kemble in her one-woman show, "Shame the Devil: An Audience with Fanny Kemble." The show provides an insightful first-hand glimpse into the history of the area as well as Kemble's life. The play takes place in 1850, a year after Kemble's divorce, when she finds her name publicly slandered by her ex-husband.

The performance will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel's Morgan Center. Entry is free, but reservations are suggested to ensure seating. Reservations may be made by calling the Jekyll Island Club Hotel at 635-2600.

Eugenia Price

Eugenia Price wasn't born in Georgia, but St. Simons Island truly became her home. The writer was a West Virginia native, but a trip to the Golden Isles profoundly influenced her life and her writing. She made the fateful journey in 1961 while en route to Florida for a book signing. By then, Price was already a celebrated writer with many titles to her name. She had read about St. Simons Island in a Southeastern American Automobile Association guidebook. The story mentioned the story of a young minister, Anson Greene Phelps Dodge Jr., who in 1884 had rebuilt Christ Church on St. Simons Island in memory of his wife, Ellen. She died of cholera on their honeymoon in India. The church had been severely damaged by Union soldiers during the Civil War. Price, along with fellow writer Joyce Blackburn, researched the Dodge's history for three years. They also meticulously catalogued the history of the island. The intense research paid off.

Price produced her first fictional, historically-based novel, "The Beloved Invader" in 1965. She followed that with two other books, part of the St. Simons Island trilogy. These included "The Lighthouse" and "New Moon Rising."

Price eventually moved to St. Simons Island, where she lived for 31 years. While there, she played a pivotal part in preserving the history of coastal Georgia. Price died of congestive heart failure on May 28, 1996.

Eugenia Price will be honored at 5 p.m. Nov. 9 with a free presentation titled "Eugenia Price: A Twentieth Century Northerner Writes about the Nineteenth Century South" at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Admission is free. A tour of some of Price's favorite island spots is also a part of the festival.

"Through the Eyes of Eugenia Price" Tours will be offered at 1 p.m. Nov. 10 and Nov. 11. The fully guided, four-hour tour includes a visit to Christ Church Frederica and its cemetery, where Price is buried.

Advance reservations are required, and the cost is $44 per person for the four-hour tour. Reservations may be made at www.goldenislestouring.com/eugeniaprice.html.

Eugene O'Neill

Eugene O'Neill was truly a great literary mind. He was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature. O'Neill's plays were among the first to include speeches in the American vernacular. They also involved characters on the fringes of society. He wrote one well-known comedy "Ah, Wilderness!"

Most all of his other works involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism. His work, "Long Day's Journey into Night," is a good example of this. O'Neill's first published play, "Beyond the Horizon," opened on Broadway in 1920. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His first major hit was "The Emperor Jones," which ran on Broadway in 1920.

His best-known plays include "Anna Christie," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1922; "Desire Under the Elms"; "Strange Interlude" which nabbed another Pulitzer Prize in 1928; and "Mourning Becomes Electra" in 1931.

In 1936, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

From 1932 until 1937, O'Neill and his third wife, Carlotta Monterey, lived on Sea Island, where they owned an enormous estate called "Casa Genotta." It was here that he composed, "Ah Wilderness!"

After a 10-year pause, he produced another popular play, "The Iceman Cometh" in 1946.

O'Neill will be honored at the Literary Festival with a tour of his former home. Tours are limited to 28 people per time slot. Cost is $20 per person. Transportation is provided by the Sea Island Co.

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Release Date: 10/4/2012
Source: The Brunswick News

By LINDSEY ADKISON