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‘Lewiston’ and ‘Clarkston’ Invite Viewers to Explore Legacies and More
Saturday, January 4, 2020


Idaho playwright Samuel D. Hunter has done his best to put the state of Idaho on the map, naming three plays for towns in the state and setting all but one of his many plays in Idaho.

In late 2018 the MacArthur Genuis Award winner introduced two more plays named for towns very familiar to the Gem State—“Lewiston” and “Clarkston.”

Sawtooth Productions will present free staged play readings of the works this week in the Bailey Theater at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum. “Clarkston” will be staged at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and “Lewiston” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Running time for each will be 90 minutes.

“Clarkston” will star Courtney Loving, Alec England and Kagen Albright. “Lewiston” will feature Patsy Wygle, Charlotte Hemmings, Andrew Alburger and Melodie Taylor-Mauldin Jon Kane will direct both

The two small cities, which face each other across the Snake River, were named for the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers where explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark once camped.

And Hunter has used that to explore various ideas of past and future in his plays.

  • “Clarkston” revolves around two people working the nightshift at Costco. One has had a hard life, thanks to a meth addict mother. He’s stuck in life, despite flashes of promise.

    The other, a descendant of William Clark, has had it good, attending a liberal arts school on his way to a bright future. But he flees his Connecticut town when he was diagnosed with a fatal illness and heads west, desperate to find meaning in his own history.

    Once out west, however, he finds his faith in his future and that of the country itself on shaky grounds when he is disillusioned by a landscape dotted with small, struggling towns and big box stores.

    He forms an awkward bond with his new co-worker. But it remains to be seen just how much they can help one another.

  • “Lewiston” revolves around a modern-day descendant of Meriwether Lewis as it explores the question: What is the true legacy of the westward expansion? Lewis’ descendant, who sells cheap fireworks from a roadside stand, has been selling off her family’s land piece by piece to developers that are greedily swallowing the land around her.

She and her partner have been promised a condo and a comfortable future in the new development. But, then, granddaughter Marnie bursts into her life, proposing to buy the land to save her family’s legacy. And Alice is forced to consider if there’s anything good left in the world at all as she grapples with a legacy of deeply held secrets and her increasing conviction that her family’s past is less of a legacy and more of a curse.

The plays premiered at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in Manhattan in late 2018. Both were nominees for the Drama Desk Award.

Hunter, 38, grew up in Moscow, Idaho, a little north of Lewiston in the rolling Palouse wheatfields where his father was an emergency room doctor. He left the Gem State 20 years ago for New York. But he has said he likes writng about Idaho because it’s something he knows. And, he says, the setting offers the socially isolating aspects of life in rural America that makes for good stories.

His play “A Bright New Boise” won the 2011 Obie Award for playwriting. And his play, “The Whale” won the 2013 Drama Desk Award and the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play.

 He’s also written “Pocatello” and plays set in Potlatch, Viola, Idaho Falls, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and Kendrick. “His “Greater Clements” which opened in December, was based on inspired by a visit to the Sierra Silver Mine in Wallace, Idaho.


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