Interview with Valerie S Hart, author of the new play “Rising & Falling…”

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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Interview with Valerie S Hart, author of the new play “Rising & Falling”

By Dave Carew

From Friday, August 12 through Saturday, August 20 (except Monday and Tuesday of that week), Nashville’s Rhubarb Theatre Company at The Darkhorse Theater will present Valerie S Hart’s much-anticipated new play “Rising & Falling…”

Underground Nashville is proud to present this exclusive interview with Valerie S Hart, one of Nashville’s most gifted and interesting playwrights, two weeks before the world premiere of her new play:

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: Your new play “Rising & Falling” was inspired by a real-life, public arts controversy that erupted in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. What was and is particularly compelling to you about this controversy?

VALERIE S HART:Artists ask questions and posit theories that the rest of the world can’t or won’t; so they are society’s antennae to our future.  And, while we may not like what they say/think/ask, if we squelch them, then we’ve cut off a key avenue for us to proceed out of big tragic events and arrive in better places.  That’s what the real artist was trying to do—integrate and process this horrible event (9/11) for himself.  Some weren’t ready for a visual representation though; and their needs overwhelmed his and his sculpture.

UN:  In what ways does “Rising & Falling” relate to or build upon your previous work as a playwright?

VSH:There are three explicit gestures in this play that I’ve played with over and over again in my work:

This isn’t what’s termed a “straight” (i.e. tightly realistic) play.  Historical figures float in and out, functioning as chorus and play reel of the thoughts of other characters.  A statue animates, speaking now and again.  I’m not very interested dramatically in just rendering reality.  And I think a lot about our historical and anthropological roots, and love to bring them forward whenever it works with a piece.

I find exploring the personal motivations for action fascinating.  Why we do what we do or what we intended to do—it’s frequently far from obvious or rational and can completely alter how we interpret an action.

And finally the see-saw between the needs of the individual and the group is something that I’ve explored in other work.  This tension is present here from the “the inciting incident”:  the sculptor creates a public piece to help him grieve (exercising his freedom of expression) but others believe it is offensive (based on their sense of taste).

UN:  Ultimately, what do you hope members of your audience derive—intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually—from “Rising & Falling”?

VSH: I hope they reflect on how the arts help us survive and comprehend our lives and what happens to us.  And because of that, the arts are worthy of our interest and support.  I think Tennesseans really get that with respect to music.   All music genres: folk music, country, blues, opera; they all deal with the rough patches of life.  The visual arts must as well.

Performance Information:

All tickets are $12.  For reservation or additional information, please call (615) 397-7820 or send e-mail to

Performances are at The Darkhorse Theater, 4610 Charlotte Avenue in Nashville, opening Friday August 12 and running through Saturday August 20. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows at 7:30pm, Sunday matinee on August 14 at 2:30pm. No performance Monday or Tuesday.

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.


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