Photo by Moments of the Heart Photography
The official state play of Kentucky for the Hatfield and McCoy feud, Blood Song: The Story of the Hatfields and the McCoys, returns to the stage on August 4 and runs through August 26, right in the heart of where the two families waged war. The play is written by Chelsea Marcantel and produced by the Hatfield & McCoy Arts Council, in cooperation with the University of Kentucky Pike County Extension Fine Arts Program and Artists Collaborative Theatre.
The play takes you on a journey through the entire struggle between the two families; from Asa Harmon McCoy’s murder during the Civil War, until the last event of the feud: the hanging death of Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts in 1890. Taking a road never travelled when retelling the events of the feud, the story is not told through the eyes of the two patriarchs, Ran’l McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield. Instead, some of the lesser known participants of the feud narrate the scenes and retell the events of the feud in their own words. For the first time, an audience can see how two clans fought to preserve family, and not the sensationalism on which the media of the time was focused.
Surrounded by the mountains and the mighty Tug River where the feud actually happened, the stage sits within viewing distance of the site where one of the most tragic events of the feud took place: the paw-paw tree incident of 1882. It was there that Devil Anse Hatfield executed three of Ran’l and Sally McCoy’s children along the banks of the Tug River for the murder of his brother, Ellison Hatfield. If you travel to see the play through Kentucky, you will pass the site where the McCoy homeplace was burned to the ground on New Year’s Eve of 1887 on a raid led by Jim Vance and Cap Hatfield, the cabin of “Preacher Anse” Anderson Hatfield where the infamous Hog Trial between Ran’l McCoy and Floyd Hatfield took place, as well as the election grounds where the love affair of Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy started. If you travel through West Virginia, you are within minutes of several of the Hatfield’s homeplaces and the Matewan schoolhouse where the three McCoys were kept while awaiting the fate of Ellison Hatfield.
Not only is the stage surrounded with the tradition of both families, but the cast is as well. Comprised completely of local talent, several of the cast members are related to either the Hatfields, the McCoys, or both! This is proof that while the nation has once again taken an interest in a feud between two Appalachian families, the hatchet between the Hatfields and the McCoys was buried long ago.
The play is produced in association with Artists Collaborative Theatre in Elkhorn City. ACT started out producing outdoor dramas such as The Kentucky Cycle (2002), Always…Patsy Cline, and Quilters, before moving into its black box theatre home. ACT’s Executive Director, Stephanie Richards, attributes the success of the work to all of the people working together for the same quality outcome. “We have an amazing playwright that embraced the story, learned the details, and worked to tell the human story of the feud with an ending of hope for all of our mountain people. We have local talent dedicated to telling the story simply, honestly, and truthfully onstage. With our local talent, there are no bad acting tricks that have to be broken down. It is natural for our company to just tell the story and we know how to do that! It comes from our heritage of oral history, our storytelling of life through our generations. I have worked many places and know the blessings we have in our local actors. Directors would love to have this raw talent, professional work ethic, and team atmosphere to create. If you haven’t yet seen how our local talent shines, please make plans to see this one, you will be amazed!”
Blood Song: The Story of the Hatfields and the McCoys takes place at the Hatfield-McCoy Outdoor Theatre in McCarr, Ky. Shows run each Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm through the month of August. Tickets are $10 each. For more information about the play, including directions to the venue, please call the Pike County Extension Office at (606) 432-2534 or visit facebook.com/HMartscouncil.