School of Theatre and Dance alumna Deborah B. Dickey premieres new play, “Threads of Silver and Gold” in Panamá Playwright and theatre director Deborah B. Dickey (MFA 1979) was recently invited to premiere her play, “Threads of Silver and Gold: Women of the Panama Canal” in the Republic of Panamá. The play was presented at the Theatre Guild of Ancon in August of 2016 as part of a fundraiser for the Marcia L. Henry Foundation, which supports the education of young women of West Indian Descent.
Written in honor of the 100 th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal, the play celebrates the lives of women who first arrived during the construction period of the canal from the United States, Great Britain, and the West Indies. In creating the play, Dickey received a grant from the Center for the Humanities in the Public Sphere at the University of Florida with support from the Rothman endowment. Additional support was received from the George A. Smathers Libraries at UF and the university’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations.
Dr. Paul Ortiz, Director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida, describes “Threads of Silver and Gold” as “an intimate and compelling portrayal of life in the Panama Canal Zone. Told through the voices of women from the West Indies, England and the United States, this play is a poignant and powerful rendition of life as it was experienced by people from different backgrounds in the Panama Canal.”
Dickey’s other plays include “Cross Roads: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Norton S. Baskin in Unguarded Moments” and “Letters From A to B,” about playwright Sophie Treadwell’s experiences as a Red Cross nurse during WWI. She was a member of the University of Arizona’s Theatre Studies and Directing faculty and has directed in professional and educational theatre for over 30 years. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of A Classic Theatre, Inc. in St. Augustine where her play, “Sweet Emmaline: The Musical Journey Debbie McDade” premiered in the spring of 2016.
“Threads of Silver and Gold” was first presented in a staged reading at the The Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville in the spring of 2015, and later received a full production at A Classic Theatre, Inc. in St. Augustine. Dickey said that the latter production “was an unforgettable experience with members of the very family I had written about seated in the audience, along
with many others who had been born or grown up in Panamá.”
The performance in Panama City, Dickey said, “put the play to the test with Panamanian citizens in the audience and onstage. The hospitality of the people I met was incredible, and I was introduced at a meeting of the American Society of Panama made up of longtime residents and newcomers.”
In describing the participants, she said, “Many rehearsals were held at the American School, where we recruited the American Corner of Panama library coordinator as our Narrator, and the actors shared memories of their own experiences in Panamá. To my delight, several cast members began comparing stories in the play to stories they had heard from family members. Ines Sealy, an expert on West Indian culture, was perfectly cast as the grandmother in Act Two and gave me many insights into her role, enriching my stories with specific cultural observations of her own.
“When we opened on Saturday, August 6, the play was enthusiastically embraced by all involved. Most importantly, the Foundation’s efforts to instill selfesteem, ethics and social skills in young women in Panamá received welldeserved exposure in the community. As for me, I am left with wonderful memories and many new friends from a beautiful country full of dynamic women possessing a great pride in their heritage and culture.”