Ideas: May 2008 Archives
Actor Michelle Hurst and writer and director Ain Gordon in Lexington's Downtown Arts Center where they are presenting In This Place . . . , a play inspired by the "alternative history" of Lexington. Copyrighted Lexington Herald-Leader photo by David Perry.
Jim Clark, the president and CEO of LexArts, invited stage writer and director Ain Gordon to come to Lexington to find a story in the city's history to tell.
It is the sort of thing Gordon has done in New York and New Jersey, and Clark has seen how it generated interest and dialogue in the communities where Gordon worked.
"I started walking around downtown and saw all of those historic plaques," said Gordon. "My first reaction was, it's all been taken care of. There's nothing for me to do. This town is covering its history."
But then he started to think about the plaques and how in most cases they couldn't possibly tell the whole story of what happened at each site. He also spotted a place that curiously did not have a marker: 245 South Limestone.
"It was as old or older than many of the houses that had markers, and it wasn't marked," Gordon said. "I thought, 'Why is that? Whose house is this?'"
Through his investigations, Gordon found the 1830s-era house was originally the home of Samuel Oldham, the first free African-American man in Lexington to own his own land and build his own house.
Now, Gordon is giving two unique markers to the house -- which was bought in 2006 by Coleman Callaway III and is being renovated.
First, there's a play, In This Place ..., which opened Thursday for a three-night run at the Downtown Arts Center. The one-woman play uses traditional theatrical techniques and multimedia to tell the story of the Oldham House through the owner's wife, Daphney.
Later this summer, a new-concept historic marker will be unveiled at the house. Rather than try to encapsulate the history into a paragraph like the familiar bronzed signs dotting downtown do, the new marker will direct viewers to a Web site full of research Gordon did while writing In This Place .... The site will also showcase video from and for the play's production shot by Lexington documentary filmmaker Joan Brannon.