"I do not see how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to."
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings found her enchantment at a place in the road called Cross Creek, in 1928. One year later, she moved there, with her slightly disenchanted husband, Charles Rawlings, and they tried to live off the land, bringing little from Rochester, New York, but their clothes and typewriters and a few boxes of books.
The story Betty Jean Steinshouer sets out to tell in her stage show of Rawlings is how Florida transformed her into the author of The Yearling, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939. "I want to get at that transformation , because it happened again and again, with writers from up North who thought they were just coming on a holiday, and ended up falling in love with one particular aspect of the Sunshine State. For MKR, it was not the beaches, or the cities, or even the climate. It was one tiny hamlet, with about eight families living around her, four black and four white. That was an unusually diverse community in Jim Crow days."
Without sticking to a chronological, rote description of "and then I wrote," Steinshouer encourages the audience to have a conversation with the author. "In the old days, when I was allowed to smoke for the sake of theatah, Marj would stroll in with a Lucky Strike in one hand and a drink in the other, and a leisurely chat would begin. I can't light up anymore, but i try to keep it just as informal as if she were really there."
Rawlings is often combined with Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sarah Orne Jewett, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Marjory Stoneman Douglas for "Yankee Ladies in Florida," or with Willa Cather and Gertrude Stein for "America at War" or "On Hemingway: Three Views." But she is at her best as a solo act, reciting poetry, telling stories about her friends Robert Frost, Zora Neale Hurston, and Margaret Mitchell, and of course explaining how Florida got such a hold on her.
Different renditions of Rawlings can be booked for writing festivals and workshops, for conventions where "a taste of Florida" is desired, and for special events such as annual meetings of museum and library boards. She does cuss and make frequent references to smoking and drinking, so this is not a program for most home schoolers or other impressionable ages.