The threat of another century of fossil fuel extraction in Appalachia arrived directly on our doorstep when a company “land man” came to Clear Creek offering a lease for mineral rights to the lands that we and many others call home. The character and story of Ezell was born from that moment. Join us for our next step along the path of resistance & resilience:


ezell @ Clear creek
Sept 21-22 | Oct 5-6, 2019

Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man is an environmental, cultural and spiritual parable devised and performed from the perspective of a rural white working class man in Appalachia. The parable derives from living in the foothills of Appalachia, one man among many seeking to make sense of the time, place and condition in which we live.

Ezell is in part a study of domination in the wide range of its prominent and more subtle forms — domination between a man and the land, between a man and other people, between a man and himself. It is in part a story about how climate change, the extractive resource industry and intergenerational trauma impact the choices and decisions of a man and the land he would like to call home. It is in part a ceremony that calls to our desire for connection and belonging, that reveres nature and binds us intimately within her, that invokes the resilience, love and lessons of our ancestors and generations yet to come.

the ezell experience

Arrive at 3 p.m. for a welcome and orientation to the experience. Here’s a sense of what to expect:

  1. A Guided Walk through the woods to the performance site. You will be led by a guide on a contemplative 1-mile walk to the site with a small group. Accessibility accommodation is possible with advance notice (see reservation form).

  2. The Performance of Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man set on the ridge above Clear Creek. Ezell is devised and performed by Bob Martin, directed by Nick Slie, produced by Carrie Brunk and supported by many others (see collaborators listed below).

  3. Interaction with sculptural & sound installations throughout the woods. On your way to and from the site, you’ll encounter Ezell’s “Climate Capsules” and have the opportunity to engage the themes of Ezell somatically.

  4. A Shared Meal from our gardens & nearby farms. You’ll return to the gathering grounds after the performance to tables offering an abundance of fresh local food, water from the spring and other treats prepared and served with love. The meal will be vegetarian with dairy-free and gluten-free options.

Be prepared for the site and the season with comfortable close-toed shoes, long pants, layers for rain & warmth and bug spray. Bring cash if you’d like special refreshments and a water bottle if you’d like to carry water with you to the performance site. We will finish by dark, though it’s a good idea to have a light available for the walk back to the parking field.

Art design by Robert Gipe with photography by Erica Fladeland.

Art design by Robert Gipe with photography by Erica Fladeland.

The development and sharing of this theatrical work is an attempt to make plain and disrupt domination — to reveal the patterns of domination behavior within this character Ezell, within his relationship to others and the land, within his livelihoods and his ways of being, within his ancestry and his belief system.

It is meant for everyone who witnesses it as a motivation to continue — or an invitation to begin — the work of discovering and disrupting domination within and around themselves and to do so as an act of love and liberation.
Ezell with Papaw’s Knife (photo by Erica Fladeland)

Ezell with Papaw’s Knife (photo by Erica Fladeland)

Ezell’s ORIGIN

In 2014, the threat of another century of fossil fuel extraction in Appalachia arrived literally on our doorstep when a company “land man” showed up to offer a lease for the mineral rights to the lands that we and many others call home. Land men—essentially hired speculators for the oil & gas industry—were making a hard push to get in early on the anticipated expansion of oil & gas fracking into the Rogersville Shale, a geologic formation that crosses from West Virginia into East Kentucky through what has long been understood as “coal country.”

Within days of the land man’s arrival, our small rural community gathered together to educate and organize. We shared the leases we had been offered with one another, we contacted others in neighboring places to alert them, we called in the expertise of key local organizations, we organized a town hall meeting attended by 400 people. We learned from leaders in West Virginia and other communities about their experience of fracking and joined efforts with other communities in Kentucky and afar who had worked to resist the expansion of pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure throughout the U.S.

As we contributed to these organizing efforts, we also turned to our art as a means to access our collective resilience in the face of the fracking threat and to inspire action toward the vision of a renewable energy future in harmony with nature and one another.

We were further motivated in this cultural organizing work by our experience of hosting the national premier of Cry You One which involved an extensive cross-regional residency & presentation of 16 New Orleans artists grappling in parallel with the trauma of oil extraction, climate change, land & culture disappearance on the Gulf Coast. That cross-regional exchange with Mondo Bizarro and other Gulf artists and the threat of fossil fuel extraction in our region has fueled our original artistic work here at Clear Creek in recent years and gave birth to the current Ezell project.

Ezell’s first incarnation on stage at Clear Creek during Land, Water, Food, Story (photo by Melisa Cardona).

Ezell’s first incarnation on stage at Clear Creek during Land, Water, Food, Story (photo by Melisa Cardona).

Ezell’s Evolution

The Ezell project is a slow-developing story that evolves in response to the land, people and context from which it arose. Here’s what we’ve witnessed so far:

Bob Martin as Ezell in Where’s That Power Gonna Come From? (photo by Erica Chambers)

Bob Martin as Ezell in Where’s That Power Gonna Come From? (photo by Erica Chambers)

2014-15: The character of Ezell emerges through devising work with a local ensemble as we prepare for the production of Land, Water, Food Story, a community-devised performance shared alongside Cry You One at Clear Creek. Ezell returns in a second iteration of Land, Water, Food Story as a more fully developed character based upon our interactions with the oil & gas company’s Land Man. Our work in this time is supported by a Partners in Action grant from Alternate ROOTS.

The Ezell solo performance in development during the Double Edge Creation Lab (photo by Travis Coe)

The Ezell solo performance in development during the Double Edge Creation Lab (photo by Travis Coe)

2016-17: A Clear Creek ensemble of 8 people develops Where’s That Power Gonna Come From?, a short musical & theatrical touring performance intended to support community organizing in relation to the fracking threat and the vision for renewable energy alternatives. In the performance, a reading of the actual encounter with the land man is shared by Carrie Brunk and the original “generator scene” of Ezell is performed by Bob Martin amidst numerous original songs written and performed by the ensemble (Mitch Barrett, Nicole Garneau, Jacob Graber, Kayla Preston, Robert Rorrer, Mirra Shapiro & Melody Youngblood). Where’s That Power Gonna Come From? was presented throughout Kentucky by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth in Lexington, Hindman and Covington, by Frack Free Foothills and West Sixth Brewery again in Lexington, by New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future in Springfield, by First Friday Berea in Berea, by Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe in Frankfort, by Kentucky Beyond Fossil Fuels at a regional conference in Lexington, and by Alternate ROOTS in Arden, North Carolina.

2018: Bob spends 4 weeks at the Double Edge Creation Lab in Ashfield, MA to further develop the Ezell character and story. He’s awarded the Al Smith Fellowship by the Kentucky Arts Council, the state’s highest award in recognition of artistic excellence, for his community story and theatrical work. The award plus an Artistic Assistance grant from Alternate ROOTS supports three work-in- progress sharings including a performance during the Solstice Spectacle at Clear Creek alongside The Wastelands, The Way at Midnight and Performing Revolutionary; a performance and dialogue at ROOTS Week; and a performance and pilot of the Dismantling Domination | Cultivating Resilience post-performance engagement session during the Hurricane Gap Community Performance Institute at Pine Mountain Settlement School.

2019: We deepen our collaboration with New Orleans artists and invite our community into Climate Capsules design residencies to develop the Ezell set as well as a series of installations in the woods along the walk to the performance site. Creation and development work continues in preparation for the full-scale Ezell experience September 21-22 and October 5-6, 2019. Because of the intimate and remote setting of the performance, audience is limited for each sharing. Please reserve your tickets now to ensure a place!

Bob Martin as Ezell’s Papaw (photo by Erica Fladeland)

Bob Martin as Ezell’s Papaw (photo by Erica Fladeland)

SOURCING & TOURING Ezell

We understand the presentation of this project as a means to continue and extend efforts that support our collective work of disrupting domination, dismantling oppression and learning how to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another.

While the fracking threat is significant, we are simultaneously deeply inspired by living on Clear Creek, an incredibly bio-diverse forest fed by natural spring water, solar-powered energy and a surrounding community of people who live in close relationship with the land. We have become stewards of this place and have learned its story through walking and working the land, learning its plants and animals, uncovering little by little the lineage and ways of life of the indigenous and settler peoples who lived here before. Our intent with Ezell is to present the threat we face and the resilience we are capable of in equal measure such that people near and far are inspired to dismantle domination and cultivate liberation in their own lives & communities.

We plan to tour Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man throughout Appalachia and across the U.S in 2020-2022. Our primary focus is to share this work with other front-line fossil fuel extraction communities, post-industrial communities and indigenous communities who we believe will relate intrinsically to the content, trauma and resilience of this experience and with whom we are eager to learn and exchange. We are partnering primarily with other artists and community organizers to tour this work and welcome inquiries and invitations.

Contact us if you’re interested in hosting Ezell in your community.


collaborators & supporters

Ezell is a collaborative project born of its place and people with the support of many collaborators from near and far.

Devised and Performed by Bob Martin (Clear Creek Creative | Disputanta, KY)
Directed by Nick Slie (Mondo Bizaroo | New Orleans, LA)
Produced by Carrie Brunk (Clear Creek Creative | Disputanta, KY)
Designed by Jeff Becker (Catapult Studios | New Orleans, LA) with Jo Nazro (Contemporary Arts Center | New Orleans, LA)
Set Construction & Woodland Installations by Jeff Becker, Carrie Brunk, Nicole Garneau, Clare Hagan, Bob Henshaw, Debra Hille, Peter Hille, Bob Martin, Cheyenne Mize, Jo Nazro, Robert Rorrer, Nick Slie, Snoop, Connor Zaft.

Funding support for Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man has been provided through the Creation Fund of the National Performance Network, a Continuation Grant from the Network of Ensemble Theaters for our partnership with Mondo Bizarro, an Alternate ROOTS Artistic Assistance grant and the Al Smith Fellowship of the Kentucky Arts Council which is supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ezell Supporter Logos Horizontal.jpg
Ezell ensnared during a work-in-progress sharing at the Hurricane Gap Community Performance Institute hosted at Pine Mountain Settlement School. (photo by Holly Stone)

Ezell ensnared during a work-in-progress sharing at the Hurricane Gap Community Performance Institute hosted at Pine Mountain Settlement School. (photo by Holly Stone)

Banner photo at page header by Erica Fladeland.