Bringing Lawless Spirits to Life – Part II

A lot of work goes into creating Lionheart Theatre's Lawless Spirits Tour, but perhaps the most fascinating part to play is that of the playwright. Lionheart Theatre recently sat down with Kate Guyton and Daniel Guyton, who wrote several of the stories for this year's Lawless Spirits Tour.

How did you get involved with Lionheart's Lawless Spirits Tour?

Daniel:  “It's been a few years now, so my memory is hazy - but the very first year, it wasn't called Lawless Spirits, nor did it occur on Halloween. It was a historical tour, like Lawless Spirits, but the focus was less on scary stories. I don't remember the name of that first tour off-hand, but I wrote a monologue called ‘Granny Cain’ about a woman who ran the legendary Brunswick Hotel. That year, Tanya Caldwell approached Kate and I, along with several other Georgia writers, to create the scripts. It was a big hit, so the following year, when she created ‘Lawless Spirits,’ she invited Kate and I to write new pieces. We have been a part of this event every year since!”

Kate:  “I believe that first piece I wrote is still used in the tour. I remember being thrilled to be asked to write for Lionheart…especially a ghost tour! I look forward to writing for this event every year.”

What was the writing process like?

Daniel:  “Each year, Tanya gives us newspaper clippings of certain events that occurred in Norcross' history. I make sure to read each newspaper clipping carefully, and then do any other research I can about the people, events, or at least the time period in which it occurred. I spend a lot of time trying to understand who these people were, and why the story is relevant today. The questions I always ask are: ‘What do these characters want (objective)? What is in the characters’ way of getting what they want (obstacle)? And, what tactics are the characters using to get around the obstacle and obtain their objective?’ Once I have the answers, I begin trying to find the character's voice. Is it a wealthy character or a poor character? Are they from Norcross originally, or did they move here? What does their accent sound like? Are they old? Young? Etc. Also, are they religious? Norcross has a fascinating religious history, and many of the stories deal with religion in some way - so I have to make sure to incorporate those factors in the language I choose. In addition, I also have to ask what is happening socially during this time period. Many of these stories take place during the post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow era, so if those social constructs are relevant to the story, I will include them. Quite a few of the stories I've written have specifically mentioned race in the original newspaper article, so I don't shy away from that. For instance, one character was white, but it was revealed in the trial that he had painted himself in black-face in order to commit a robbery. This detail in the robbery case allowed me to not only focus on the specifics of the case, but also to make a broader social commentary on the use of blackface in popular culture at that time. Tying in a relatively small historical moment with a much larger historical phenomena is a powerful way to keep these stories relevant, as well as make a broader point about humanity.”

Kate:  “For my piece, I relied heavily on the three news articles provided to me from the archives on this love triangle. Gene Ramsey does excellent research. The articles allowed me to understand the setting and what happened in order to create the proper tension between COLEMAN, DELPHIA and CLIFF. In the case of a young woman turning down another man, I imagined that DELPHIA was perhaps forced into inviting COLEMAN. Every year, I find the articles provide proper background, but they don’t restrict our imaginations in creating the pieces. In fact, the reporting was so different – lacking - back then that the articles leave enough holes for us to fill in with our own ideas and drama.”

What do you think audiences will enjoy about these stories?

Kate:  “For ‘The Lawless Spirits Love Triangle,’ I think audiences will relate to DELPHIA’s discomfort and being cornered by another man, forced to agree to his demands. They may also relate to the jealousy seen later in the piece. I do hope it makes the audience feel unsettled, and personally, their feeling highly unsettled would be the greatest compliment for me.”

Daniel:  “What I love about these stories is that these are people - just like us. They had different technology, different viewpoints on the world and culture as a whole, but they were still human - full of hopes, dreams, flaws, happiness and frailties. In many cases, these characters' grandchildren and great-grandchildren are still walking around and may even have memories of these people. So, I love being able to give voice to these nearly forgotten people from our not-so-ancient past, but I also love connecting their voices to our own world today. For instance, imagine a character from the early 1900's who is SO excited to be riding an elevator for the very first time. The sheer joy this character has in riding an elevator is something we can all connect to - even if we don't feel that way for an elevator, per se, but maybe we feel it when trying out a new iPhone, or some other new technology.”

As a married couple writing under the same roof, do you tend to work independently or collaborate on writing projects?

Kate:  “We prefer to work independently. Dan has his office, and I have mine. Now we may have each other proof the other’s work when we’re done and suggest needed changes, but – apart from that – we don’t interfere with each other’s writing processes at all. However, we do support each other a great deal and enjoy reading each other’s finished work.”

Daniel:  “We are both great at reviewing and proofreading each other's work (Kate is always my first reader for everything I write), but we've discovered that our marriage works much better if we do not try to do the initial writing together. Don't get me wrong - we both thoroughly enjoy each other's work, but we each write at different speeds (and I'm sure there's a metaphor there, but I prefer to pretend there isn't).”

How do your writing styles differ?

Daniel: “I typically like to just start writing, get it all on the paper, and then edit later. She tends to take a more thoughtful approach from the very beginning. It is much easier for us to collaborate in the editing process, because at that point, there's no feeling of being rushed or competing with one another. We are actually both very thoughtful and meticulous editors, so in that phase, we are quite literally on the same page at the same time - and we very much enjoy working together in the editing phase.”


Lionheart Theatre's Lawless Spirits, October 25-28

The Lawless Spirits Tour is available October 25-28, 2018, in downtown Norcross, with two walking tours at 6:30pm and 8pm nightly. Participants will be given a wristband at check-in which will get them exclusive discounts to downtown merchants the night of their tour. 8pm participants are encouraged to check in early to enjoy the discounts before their tour time. Tickets for Lawless Spirits Tour are $10 each (for all ages) and are available at http://bit.ly/2NyudXI.

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