Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 15, 2012

The acting comeback that never was


— — Acting is happy agony.

So said the French philosopher, Jean Paul-Sartre.

He must have been talking about community theatre where you work just as hard as professional actors but you don’t get paid or have a fancy dressing room or have your meals catered to the set.

Also, old Jean Paul could have been referring to a play scrupulously based on actual historical events, like “Bloody Rowan!”, now playing to sold out audiences at the Rowan County Arts Center.

If you don’t believe action can be depicted on a small, indoor stage, here’s what happens in the span of just over two hours:

The players manage to kill off a dozen folks, burn down a house, shoot up several saloons, have rowdy courtroom trials, visit jail cells in two counties, hijack a train, drink lots of make-believe whiskey, flirt with another man’s wife, fire off more ammunition than World War I, and utter more screams than a zombie movie.

Strangely, it was the same Jean Paul-Sartre who said that words are loaded pistols. Or, in the case of this well-written and well-directed play, words also are loaded rifles and shotguns and an occasional sharp knife.

One might suspect the production was sponsored by a funeral home with a “bury one, get one free” discount.

So, you might wonder, how do I know so much about this new play which folks are raving about and clamoring for tickets to see?

It’s because the esteemed special prosecutor from Louisville who illuminates the stage with his brief but powerful role in Scene 6 of Act Two is none other than yours truly.

Actually, the illumination is done by a spotlight. I just got carried away with that line.

I also admit that I initially was so pleased to be in the first curtain call, only to realize later that those with the smallest parts come out first and the audience saves its real applause for those with the important roles.

Amid the seemingly endless rehearsals and hours of waiting backstage for my three minutes of nightly fame, I’ve realized that my acting comeback is not coming back.

It’s been fun but now I’m looking forward to checking it off my bucket list.

Be assured that the other 35 cast members, including a gifted balladeer, do a great job and obviously love being community thespians.

As for me, Shakespeare’s Macbeth perfectly described my stage career:

“Out, out, brief candle.


Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at