MARTHA (THE SEARCHERS)
a ballet by Julia K. Gleich
created in collaboration with artist Elana Herzog
presented by norte maar | produced by Jason Andrew
featuring the music of Joseph Koykkar, and a selection of popular tunes from American history
danced by Michelle Buckley, Courtney Cochran, Cassidy Hall, Cortney Key, Tiffany Mangulabnan, Jordan Miller, Amy Saunder, Timothy Ward
* * *
“It was Martha who would not quit, and she had a will that could jump and blaze like a grass fire.”
–Alan LeMay, The Searchers
* * *
Martha (The Searchers) is full evening ballet for a cast of eight (8). It can be produced with a smaller cast of five (5). The full set includes five(5) rolling textile drops, one pallet, and three(3) layered rugs. More photos available on request.
ABOUT THE SEARCHERS
In The Searchers (1956), John Ford created complex representations of social issues on Western frontiers. He explored interactions between whites and Indians, immigrants and Hispanics, men and women, and interethnic relations. The Searchers was made and released during the early days of the Civil Rights movement.
Ford’s film was based on a novel of the same title by Alan LeMay. The story dealt with the return of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), a veteran of the Confederate army, to his brother’s farm in Texas in 1868. Living on the farm is his brother Aaron, Aaron’s wife Martha (Dorothy Jordan), their three children Lucy, Ben and Debbie, and their adopted son, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), who was rescued as an infant by Ethan after his parents were massacred by Indians. Soon after Ethan’s return home, he, together with Martin, joins the Texas Rangers to pursue what appear to be cattle rustlers. When they find the cattle dead, Ethan realizes that they have been lured from their homes by Comanche Indians, who are on a killing raid. When Ethan returns to his brother’s house, he finds it destroyed, Aaron, Martha, and Ben killed, and their two daughters taken captive. The search then begins for the two girls. Lucy is soon discovered: she has been raped and killed. Ethan and Martin then continue with their increasingly obsessive search for Debbie, which lasts approximately seven years. Martin soon realizes that Ethan is searching not to rescue Debbie (played by Lana Wood as a child, and Natalie Wood as an adult), but to kill her. So Pauley has to stay with Ethan in order to protect Debbie from him. He encounters resistance even from Laurie, the woman he loves. She challenges him as he’s about to embark on the last journey to “rescue” Debbie. “…fetch what home? The leavin’s of Comanche bucks…?” Captivity was commonly considered “the fate worse than death” for a woman. [spoiler alert] In the end they find Debbie, now an adult and a wife of the Comanche chief Scar (Henry Brandon). Martin rescues her before a raid on the Indian encampment, and Ethan – relenting – finally takes her back to the Jorgensen family, friends of the Edwards’s and a symbol of society and civilization on the frontier. Ethan himself disappears back into the desert. This seemingly happy ending leaves a series of questions about Ethan’s redemption. Perhaps it is hopeful. I’d like to think so.