The Clearing>Production Info
Theatre Banshee produced The Clearing by Helen Edmundson in August-September of 1998 at the Gene Bua Acting for Life Theatre in Burbank, California.


Cast (in order of appearance)
Killaine Carolyn Palmer
Pierce Dan Harper
Solomon Barry Lynch
Susaneh Rebecca Wackler
Robert Eric Drachman
Maddy Leslie Baldwin
Sturman Andrew H. Leman
Soldier, Sailor, Commissioner, Judge Daniel Graves
Production Staff
Director Sean Branney
Producers Leslie Baldwin & Sean Branney
Stage Manager Stephanie Morey
Scenic/Lighting Designer Shaun Meredith
Technical Director Bob Davidson
Costume Designer Laura Brody
Sound Designer/Original Score Erik Hockman
Master Electrician Matt Cotter
Scenic Construction Randy Kent
Paint/Scenic Construction Jeff Showalter

Helen Edmundson (Playwright)

Helen Edmundson, author of The Clearing, founded the female agitprop ensemble Red Stockings Theatre Company in 1988, in which she worked as an actress, writer and director.

Her writing credits with Red Stockings include Ladies in the Lift (Manchester Evening News Theatre Award nomination), Running Gags, Breaking Rank, Oh Yes We Can, and The Influence. She also worked as an actress in various Northwest England theatres and on television, and was dramaturg for the Northwest Playwrights workshop.

Her first play, Flying, was presented at the Royal National Theatre Studio in 1990. Other work include the two short television films One Day and Stella. She has written three acclaimed stage adaptations for Shared Experience Theatre: Anna Karenina (Time Out Award, Theatre ManagerŐs Association Award for Best Touring Production), The Mill on the Floss and War and Peace, which was also staged at the National Theatre.

The Clearing won the Time Out Theatre Award and was the joint winner of the John Whiting Award. Anna Karenina appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave festival in 1998. Ms. Edmundson studied at Manchester University, where she was also a part-time Tutor in Drama.

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Production Notes by Sean Branney 12/8/01

I'm a big fa
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Program

We created Theatre Banshee to provide a loud, clear voice in these times of social stagnation. Our mission is far-reaching: to revitalize American culture and the art form of theatre in particular by offering the public live entertainment which is challenging, engaging and affordable. As the digital age expands, it has become increasingly difficult to find quality live entertainment which is immediate and thought-provoking. We plan to accomplish this goal by producing a season which features classical and contemporary plays as well as new and experimental works by emerging authors. To reach as broad an audience as possible, we plan to present our plays to the public in traditional theatre venues and take theatre to audiences via an Outreach Program. The Outreach Program allows us to bring Theatre Banshee's works to children, the elderly, the disabled and other groups who are often denied the experience of live theatre.

The Clearing takes place in Co. Kildare, Ireland in the 1650Ős.

There will be one ten minute intermission.

Director's Notes

The Clearing, is a tale of brutality. It is the story of military conquerors plundering a country and decimating its inhabitants. It is a true ethnic cleansing hundreds of years before the term came to popular use. By the time this play is set in, England had been working on a political and military conquest of Ireland for centuries. The civil war of the 1640's (see Historical Note for further information) gave England a complete and total military victory over the Irish. Having conquered Ireland militarily, they set out to annihilate it socially.

The final enactment of legislative genocide against the Irish took place in the House of Commons on 26 September 1653. An act was passed that was breathtaking in its intent. Before 1 May 1654, all members of the Irish nation were to remove themselves west of the River Shannon into the area of Co. Clare and the province of Connaught, the poorest and most inhospitable region of the island where famine was still raging. If any Irish man, woman or child was found east of the River Shannon after that date they could be immediately executed. The choice was "Hell or Connaught!"
Peter Beresford Ellis, ©1994, Historical Note to The Clearing

The historical events of The Clearing are just one of many episodes of intense conflict between England and Ireland. The cumulative effect of the conflict remains today in a deeply ingrained rift between two social/political groups in Northern Ireland: those who wish to remain under British rule and those who seek independence from Great Britain. And while recent events such as the Good Friday Accord shine a ray of hope that this conflict may one day come to a close, this month's standoff by Orangemen at Drumcree and the death of three little boys remind us that such deep wounds in a nation cannot be healed by such a simple agreement. We can hope it's a step in the right direction.

The grim agenda exercised in The Clearing is not merely a glimpse from the distant past. Comparable policies were enacted in this country from well-before its founding into the early 20th century. Native people were moved off their own land, and sent to unwanted, inhospitable reservations while their land was reallocated to ŇsettlersÓ. Even the Japanese Interment camps of World War II were redolent of this kind of brutal, self-righteous public policy. And its not over yet. Similar "clearings" are still being practised today in Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya and other lands. And in each household affected by such an action, an unnamed but intense personal drama unfolds.


In memory of Mark Williams 1959-1998
A good friend and great talent gone far too soon. May you rest in peace with scary monsters.


Historical Note

17th Century Ireland is not a chapter of history well known to most of us. It is an age rife with political intrigue, ideological conflict, and religious warfare. The intricacies which inform the action of The Clearing are too complex to unravel in a brief program note, however, I will try to clarify some of the key forces at work in the play.

King Henry VIII "officially" claimed Ireland as part of Great Britain in the early 1500s. This proclamation however, did little to change the day-to-day lives of the native Irish. Ireland was a disparate land ruled by factionalized clans and lords, united only by geography, language and a strong allegiance to the Catholic faith.

In subsequent years, England undertook several campaigns of "plantation", where English settlers were given Irish lands and encouraged to bring a semblance of civility to a land perceived as wilderness. By the early 1600s, there were many English farmers living in the prosperous farmlands of Eastern Ireland. And there were many Irish dispossessed of their birthright.

In addition to annexing Ireland, Henry VIII severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church and created the Church of England, proclaiming himself its head. This movement towards reformation swept Europe, leaving it deeply and bitterly divided between Catholics who retained their faith and the Protestants who rejected the old churchŐs corruption.

Within England, the split between the Protestant majority and the Catholics grew deeper over time. Eventually, a Puritan majority in Parliament confronted the power of the Catholic king, and civil war ensued. The basis of the war was over who wielded governmental power, and the divide between religious camps happened to follow the political split between Royalists who supported the King Charles and Parliamentarians who sought to depose him.

At the same time, the Irish, weary of persecution and eviction from their lands, rose up against the English settlers, and began an ill-fated rebellion against the English forces. In 1641 Irish nationalists began a campaign to rid Ireland of English forces. The Irish Confederacy opted to join forces with the King Charles under the assumptions that (a) their forces were too weak to fully defeat the entire English Army on their own and (b) that if victorious, King Charles would offer religious tolerance towards Catholics. The Confederacy was aided by a large number of English settlers (known as Old English) who had been living in Ireland for some time and adopted Catholicism as their faith. They too thought the King would ensure their religious liberties.

The uprising proved disastrous for the Irish Confederacy. King Charles was defeated and beheaded by his Puritan nemesis, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell went on to wage a brutal military campaign against Ireland, totally and utterly destroying the rebellion. This left Cromwell and his followers with self-proclaimed title to the land of Ireland, and a defeated people to do with as they chose.

This is the historical backdrop for The Clearing. The English Parliament enacts legislation which will confiscate the land of native Irish and banish them to the distant and inhospitable province of Connaught. The confiscated land would then be used by the government to pay off its war debts. This brutal scheme never proved entirely successful in its implementation, and The Clearing shows the horrifying personal consequences of such a brutal and calculated action. And although the Act of Transplantation was eventually suspended, the practice of driving people from their homes and forcibly relocating them onto distant and undesirable lands went on to be used at great length in the American colonies.

"I live a banished man within the bounds of my native soil; a spectator of others enriched by my birthright; an object of condoling to my relations and friends, and a condoler of their miseries"
— Ruairí O Flaithearta, 1629-1718

Special Thanks
Chris Adams
Steve Armstrong
Wasington Mutual Bank
Gene Bua & Toni Bull Bua
Knott's Berry Farm
Suzie Baldwin
Sharon & Ken Baldwin
Greg Adams, Ph.D.
University of California—Irvine
Theatre L.A.
Andrew H. Leman
Michael Marcus
Ellis Props & Graphics
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