Literary festival gives Boyle, Lincoln, Mercer Co., Danville Ind. students double-sided opportunity: seeking play based on collection of poems and interaction with the native Kentucky poet

Advocate-Messenger, Danville, Sept. 19, 2016

Frank X Walker shares with students during literary festival: Groups watch play adapted from poet’s work about Isaac Murphy
by Kendra Peek

On Friday, during the Frank X Walker Literary Festival, students from Boyle, Danville, Lincoln and Mercer schools had the opportunity to watch a play about the life of Isaac Murphy, a Kentucky-born, African-American jockey, and winner of three Kentucky Derbies.

The play was adapted from ‘I Dedicate this Ride,’ a collection of poems written by Danville native Frank X Walker about the famous jockey. Friday’s productions were for the eighth grade students at Boyle, Danville and Lincoln middle schools and the 11th grade students at Boyle, Danville and Mercer high schools.

“They study American literature and U.S. History and this bridges that. It makes that connection,” said Jane Dewey, director of arts education at the Danville Schools, and part of Citizens Concerned for Human Relations, the local organization behind the yearly Frank X Walker Literary Festival.

This year’s focus for the festival was in the schools, she said. Students in the fifth grade classes in Boyle County and Danville elementary schools were treated to classroom visits by Patsyi Trollinger, who wrote ‘Perfect Timing,’ a book about Isaac Murphy.

It was the fourth adaptation of the play, this time using only three actors — David Lee as young Isaac Murphy, Keith Griffith as Uncle Eli, and LeChrista Finn as America Burns, all from Message Theatre. Finn is the mother of Lee and portrayed the mother of Murphy. Griffith is the only member who has been in all the adaptations as Uncle Eli.

For Walker, who returned home for the day, and spoke to students before and after, it was a homecoming.

“This will always be home to me,” he said.

He also commented on the theatre at Danville High School.

“Not a lot of great high school theaters in the state. This is one. Actors are always happy to be a space like this.”

Walker, who got off the stage to speak to the students conversationally, said it was important to show them that it’s always good to come home with your talents.

“This is a chance to illustrate: whatever you do, you can come back and share it,” Walker said.

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