“The Diviners” will be the first play to be staged in the James Harrod Amphitheater since it closed due to funding problems in August 2004. (photo submitted)

By Kaylia Cornett

Since going dark in August 2004 and closing, largely due to state budget cuts under former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, the James Harrod Amphitheater in Harrodsburg has sat vacant. But this summer, a handful of Eastern affiliates worked to change that and are shining the spotlight back on the 48-year-old theater with an up-and-coming play called “The Diviners.” The show is the first play on the amphitheater’s stage in nearly six years.Director, and media supervisor at Eastern, Emerson St. John held auditions July 3-4, with six weeks of rehearsal following; some actors are Eastern graduates.

St. John said the biggest challenge going into this production was the condition of the outdoor theater.

“After being in the dark so long, things were dilapidated,” he said. “With the help of David Coleman and state park employees, we were able to get it up and going again.”

St. John said he had a $1,000 budget to work with, which didn’t go far when sets needed to be built and supplies and props need to be bought.

“Luckily, friends of the fort stepped up and donated another $500 to help make this production possible,” he said.

The play, a tragedy, focuses on the story of a young boy named Buddy Layman and his relationship with an embittered preacher during the course of a summer. At the age of 4, Buddy became terrified of water after his mother drowned saving him. The preacher C. C. Showers, serves as Buddy’s mentor and teacher.

St. John said one of the most compelling aspects about the play is that all 11 characters are good.

“This is not a play with an inherent villain, and it certainly is not about good versus bad,” he said. “It is a play about a search.”

St. John said this idea of searching reflects toward many people’s lives, especially at a time when the United States is in perhaps the most difficult economic time since the Great Depression.

“Often times, when faced with a difficult economic situation, (we) re-evaluate that which is important to us,” he said.

St. John explained that for some, that search could be for how to make more with less, or to reconnect with family, or simply, a search for purpose. But, regardless, he said we’re always searching for something.

“‘The Diviners’ leaves us with the reminder that, sometimes, tragic things happen to good people, no matter how noble or true our intentions,” St. John said.