• Waterhole Branch

Long, Strange Trip: The Inspirational Tale of Resurrection Stage

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

By: Suzanne Hudson

According to Christopher Booker, there are seven basic plots in all of literature: (1) overcoming the monster, (2) rags to riches, (3) the quest, (4) voyage and return, (5) comedy, (6) tragedy, and (7) rebirth. One could argue that the strange and inspiring tale of our once-demolished stage has aspects of several, with the obvious being (1) and (7).

I have posted, a few times, that we would be telling the story of Resurrection Stage, how it came to be, in this, the “Notes” section. We have no need to call anyone by name, although there are clear villains in this tale. For now, we offer the main points as a kind of parable, with morals/lessons offered up to be learned. We hope you will consider it a cautionary tale. And so . . .

Once upon a time, there was a carefree band of like-minded, like-souled artists, musicians, writers, and appreciaters thereof, who ebbed and flowed with a collaborative aura of creativity, positive energy swirling about their happy spirits like glimmering bits of the stars. They were not motivated by selfishness, avarice, or attention-seeking, wholeheartedly enjoying the simple and simply pure process of making joy for themselves and for others. Until one day . . .

There came upon the Branch of the Waterhole a succubus, a dark spirit, an ill-willing force, unrecognized as such, of course. At first. Said force initially presented as our “Facilitator,” full of praise and dedication to help navigate the fraught commercial landscape of promotion, thereby pushing our work out into the wider world. We felt fortunate to have such an advocate, as we have never enjoyed the soul-soiling process of sales. Facilitator knew exactly what words to say, to flatter, to entice, to seduce us into giving leave of our senses, in the interest of being noticed, garnering acclaim for the art we had heretofore produced in innocent fun and relative obscurity. In short, ego overtook reason. Guilty as charged.

Facilitator soon sniffed out a source of capital--found, flattered, enticed, seduced and otherwise enlisted Benefactor, one who, with wealth and a naive nature, agreed to act as patron, sponsor, moneybags to our endeavors. Benefactor, like so many of massive wealth, enjoyed the magnanimous role, the “showing off” of said assets, which did not go unappreciated by the little people (us). It fact, there was grand celebration, all around.

By and by, however, Benefactor was plied with false claims and assurances of a bigger “return-for-your-money,” manipulated by Facilitator into believing that the Branch of the Waterhole could become a destination spot, into building a grand stage at said destination spot, where Facilitator planned to choreograph crowd-pleasing productions that would be acclaimed near and far, far and wide. To Facilitator’s sublime stage-crafting skills high praises would be sung, recognition of the infinite, singularly special skill it took to juxtapose the spoken word with a song or two.

Build it and they will come. And they did. For a time. Because, you see . . .

Facilitator took to fomenting conflicts, pitting interests and entities against one another, insisting upon having control over every syllable spoken, head hair styled, pet acquisition made; and, most alarmingly, being the only communicative conduit between anyone and Benefactor, effectively triangulating all save Facilitator and a sycophantic toady or two away from the source of valuable patronage. Facilitator’s delusional sense of over-competence became more and more apparent to the artists involved, and lo, the tension was as thick as a rotten fart. A swelling wave of negativity broke upon the event attendees as well, some of them berated, some publicly reduced to tears, others shunned for committing the offense of not bowing and scraping to Facilitator, who by now had shown an ego, a narcissism worthy of ol’ Narcissus himself. There was a noticeable turnover in each successive event-attending crowd, until the horrid truth dawned upon us with jaw-dropping clarity. No one really liked or enjoyed being around Facilitator. No one wanted the stress of the demands and the needy expectations that could never fill the hole in that dark soul. “Facilitator” had become “Dictator,” with not one shred of benevolence.

It became obvious that Dictator was an emperor with no clothes upon that sagging, flap-bellied flesh. And when Dictator knew that we all knew and had seen the nakedness, the cringeworthy tantrum commenced, and the boards began to fly. Dictator destroyed the grand stage and other material improvements Benefactor had made to the place. Dictator and henchmen, pry-bars in hand, devoted a few days to said destruction, hauling all materials away on a flatbed as we watched from behind the curtains; marveling at the demented devotion to such a vandalistic, vile, and vindictive act; mystified by the madness, the lawlessness. And the splintered corpse of that vast stage lies useless, impotent, an utter waste, to this very day, a testament to the darker angels of human nature, the Dictator’s little “Ozymandias.”

Oh, well. We did not need a stage or any other of the frills and flourishes Benefactor had been conned into providing. We still had our spirit, a positive, accepting one, where no one dictator doled out legitimacy to something like creativity. We still had our talents, no?

And yet . . .

Why don’t you re-build the stage? Or just go get it and put it back? You’ve been given the go-ahead to re-claim it, after all. We kept hearing such sentiments, over and over, at first a murmur, then a rumble, finally becoming a roar: Hey! Now that you’re rid of that insane succubus, why not put back the old stage--or a brand new one? A better one? We’ll help you raise money for it. It’ll be fun. It’ll make a weird story, a good story, even better.

We love a good story.

Imagine it and they will help get it done. And they did.

Artists donated their work for auction, some paintings worth hundreds of dollars and more. Musicians donated CDs and merch. Authors from all over donated books. The Great Joe Galloway donated a gorgeous hard cover first edition of We Were Soldiers, signed by both him and the late General Harold Moore. Old teacher buddies and lifelong friends donated a variety of kitsch, antiques, and retro collectibles. We raised upwards of ten thousand dollars, with the help of all the friends of the Branch of the Waterhole, and we still retain another fifteen thousand dollars’ (or more) worth of pieces for future fundraising, for even more improvements. Gratitude has taken the sting out of the attack on our sense of peace. Love and support are our vindication.

Sonny Brewer, renaissance man and master carpenter, imagined, sketched, and created a whimsically unique space, in front of the “Whiskey Bottle Fence” (thank you, Grayson Capps for the song that inspired the tribute to my late brother, Wilson), at the base of our natural amphitheater, an uphill slope, up from the riverbank. The footings for the original stage, which were cemented into the ground and therefore could not be removed by Dictator’s rage, provided a foundation and a landscaping base. Turns out, the original stage was a behemoth, a show off, a structure that, like Dictator, was far, far too big for its britches. It was a big fat scar on the property, symptomatic of a glaring lack of imagination. Sonny built a stage that was smaller, intimate, more detailed, covered by a tin roof, accented with stained glass windows, a metal-topped old timey kitchen table, and cast iron pots and pans. Musicians love it. It has heart. And the stage itself is a tribute to my late brother, Joe.

And it has a name: Resurrection. For obvious reasons. For recovery in the face of mean-spirited destruction. For the Easter season, during which it was re-built (it was actually “christened” on Easter Sunday). For the resilience of the true denizens of this, The Branch. It reminds us every day of lessons learned, to wit:

Your ego is not your friend. If it is being seduced, it is likely by Satan or some such entity.

Listen to the gut, whether it whispers its warning in delicate little breaths OR outright shrieks, “What are you!?! Stupid?!?”

Appreciate your friends, those who help, those who last, those who bring positivity and collaboration. Happily shed the few who operate out of greed, ambition, or Machiavellian designs.

Be grateful for all the forces in your life, both light and dark, particularly if you are a writer, since you just can’t make this sh#t up.

And for those who write or do any kind of creating: write/create through your pain, your joy, your betrayal, your victories--write/create through it as often as you need to do, in as many ways as it takes, for as long as it takes, to either purge a wrong or embrace a right.

Comb through all the the basic plots, over and over, in the face of anything contrary or divisive. Give your soul the unmistakable nourishment that comes with the unburdening of festering hurts or of the beauty cradled by kind and true words, until your spirit soars with a dancing, cleansing joy.

The story’s the thing . . . write it.

Image: Ken E. Keller and Kevin Danzig perform on the newly-constructed Resurrection Stage at Waterhole Branch

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