November 9, 2000 Library of Congress and Arena Stage Present Concert Readings of Unpublished

Zora Neale Hurston Play, a Folk Comedy with Music, Was Never Produced

Contact: Helen Dalrymple, Library of Congress (202) 707-1940 | Denise Schneider, Arena Stage (202) 554-9066, Ext. 227
Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or

To celebrate the Library of Congress's Bicentennial and Arena Stage's 50th anniversary, there will be concert readings of Zora Neale Hurston's folk comedy, Polk County, in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress on Dec.11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. No tickets are required. The Coolidge Auditorium is in the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E.

Polk County is an unpublished and unproduced Hurston play, which was identified in 1997, among the library's copyright deposits, along with nine other little-known Hurston playscripts. Written in 1944 in collaboration with Dorothy Waring, Polk County is set in a sawmill camp in southern Florida. The play follows the complicated dynamics among the African American men and women of the camp. Inspired by Hurston's personal experiences in Florida while gathering material for her nonfiction work Mules and Men, the script features blues, holler, folk, and religious songs, a few written especially for this play. The Polk County story offers something for everyone - high drama, low comedy, folk dance, a "jump the broom" wedding, and a voodoo ritual. The complete play will be read each evening.

These special readings also will highlight some of the Library's rich archival material on Zora Neale Hurston, including sound recordings made by Hurston for folklorist Alan Lomax in the 1930s; a display of Hurston correspondence and photographs; and silent film footage that was preserved in the collections of anthropologist Margaret Mead made by Hurston while she was collecting folklore materials in Alabama and Florida.

The readings will feature many cast members of Arena Stage's production of Play On!, a musical comedy with the music of Duke Ellington loosely based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. A brief discussion period with the Library's literary manuscript specialist, the dramaturge, the director and some of the actors will follow each of the performances.

The Polk County event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.


PR 00-160
ISSN 0731-3527