Wednesday, February 17, 2016

First look: The Cigar Factory, a novel of Charleston

The spoken word

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 4:59 PM

click to enlarge img_0429.jpg


Earlier this month The Cigar Factory, a novel by Michele Moore, was released, bringing with it a slew of history, performances, and tales untold. You can buy the book online now, or sign up for Moore's author's talk at Halls on Fri. March 18. A staged performance reading of a script inspired by the book will also play at Piccolo Spoleto, date and time to be determined. This morning we attended The Cigar Factory's book launch at the Culinary Institute's amphitheater. Moore spoke a bit before the screening of a video of last year's first staged performance reading, held during the surrounding area's Eastside Day.

"I couldn't imagine a more perfect place to launch," says Moore. "My grandmother lived on this street," she said talking about Columbus street. Moore was talking about the history of working women in Charleston, something she explores at length in The Cigar Factory.

"They wanted a dumb and docile workforce, and they got anything but," she added. The script of the staged performance, which pulls directly from the book, was a collection of chapters that speak to the experiences of both white and black cigar factory workers, with each participant speaking in heavy Gullah/Geechee and Charleston English dialects.

"The script came from my desire to hear the story," said Moore. Her family members had thick Charleston accents (Moore is from Atlanta), and she'd come to understand how important those dialects could be. 

Moore describes the staged reading performers as "found art," because most of the speakers had no acting experience prior to their audition for this script. We were impressed by the speakers' dialects, most of which sounded authentic and unforced. The novel follows two poor families, one white, one black, both cigar factory workers — and already needed the assistance of the novel's glossary. Buckruh, for example, means white man. High buckruh? Rich white man.

The dialogue is not meant to alienate readers, though, with Moore writing in a note in the front of the book, "Dialect is portrayed in snippets — a single word, a random phrase, an occasional paragraph, particularly when a new character is introduced or during an emotional outburst: auditory navigational aids, if you will, bell buoys placed every so often as channel markers within the Gullah-Geechee/Charleston English spectrum." 

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