EKU’s Pearl Buchanan Theatre was packed Wednesday night, April 5, for the one act play “Sisters of the Mother Forest” presented by Alice Jones, professor of geography and director of EKU’s Appalachian Studies program and Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship program.
Jones presented a story about two sisters, Lucy and Annette Braun, retelling the life and career-changing experiences of one research trip in which they explored forestry and ecological science in far eastern Kentucky.
Dressed in a white button down shirt and leather laced boots to her knees, with a chair, podium and small table, Jones presented the play. The stage also included her tube of maps, a water canteen and a sack to collect specimen.
Jones said she learned about the sisters in 2006 when Bill Martin introduced her to them. Martin was the former director of the Natural Areas Program at EKU, and he went to many of the forests to study the old growth forests which he found in Lucy’s research.
“He always had the book with him and would always talk about the sisters, and in particular Lucy because she was one of his academic predecessor’s, and that’s when I first learned about them,” Jones said. “I just got fascinated and just had to learn more.”
In 2010, Jones had a research project in eastern Kentucky and started thinking about what the forest and life was like 70 years ago.
Jones has done creative writing and written short sketches before but nothing like this play. She wrote more than she needed and got feedback from her friends on what worked and what didn’t.
“When the writing really started coming it just flowed, and I didn’t have to work at it,” Jones said.
Heater Dewarld, 18, a freshmen chemistry major from Louisville, said she was eager to see Jones’ performance and how acting and learning came together.
“I didn’t know a lot about what was being presented, but I am glad I came and learned the diversity of what the Braun sisters found on the journey in eastern Kentucky,” Dewarld said.
Students are responding better through the arts of performance, said Sarah Evans, an associate director of the department of P-12 School Partnerships who has a background in K-12 education and a master’s in theater
“This is the trend to the future of teaching,” Evans said. “I found out in my classes my students respond much better in live performance, or even podcast, or movies where they can be engaged and cover so much content.”
Matthew Pianalto, an associate professor for the Department of Philosophy and Religion, said he was teaching about environmental ethics and was curious about the play.
“Teaching environmental ethics, it’s always useful to learn some ecology to tie in with the philosophy,” Pianalto said.
Jones’ next performance will be April 11 at the University of Cincinnati. She will also be performing in “Seedtime on the Cumberland” inside the Appalshop auditorium in June and then at the Pine Mountain Settlement School this summer.
“I originally wrote it as an educational peace and I hope to do it in school and other venues,” Jones said. “In the fall, I hope to do be doing it more around and in schools.”