Play about Upper Big Branch mine disaster to be performed in W.Va.
Cast from the New York Off-Broadway run.

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A play based on the 2010 Upper Big Branch coal mining disaster that killed 29 miners will be performed in southern West Virginia next month.

“Coal Country” recently ended an off-Broadway run in New York City. The play’s dialogue is taken directly from dozens of interviews with survivors and family members conducted by husband-and-wife team Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen.

Theatre West Virginia will bring the entire production to Woodrow Wilson High School’s auditorium in Beckley on May 9 for a free performance.

Grammy-winning artist Steve Earle performed the music for “Coal Country,” which mixes survivors’ stories with folk-inspired songs.

The April 5, 2010, disaster was caused by worn and broken cutting equipment that created a spark and ignited accumulations of coal dust and methane gas at the Massey Energy mine in southern West Virginia. Broken and clogged water sprayers allowed what should have been a minor flare-up to become an inferno. It was the worst U.S. coal disaster in four decades.

People’s World journalist Tim Wheeler reported April 8, 2010:

“Hundreds of mourners staged candlelight vigils in West Virginia towns the evening of April 7 honoring the 29 coal miners who died in the explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine on April 5. Rescuers were forced to turn back, once again, by heavy concentrations of explosive methane in the five-mile-long mine.

“The biggest vigil was in Cabin Creek, site of coalfield wars a century ago as miners struggled to win union rights in the face of vicious coal company union-busting and brutal exploitation.

“Former Whitesville, W. Va. Mayor, Earl Howell, 85, himself a retired coal miner told Reuters that safety and health in the coal mines have sharply declined as the number of unionized mines has plummeted.

“That charge was echoed by Jimmy Platt, 54, a former Massey miner now employed as a chef.  Platt said the mine “was an accident waiting to happen” as Massey ran roughshod over safety and health regulations. Ten of the citations issued against Massey were for poor ventilation to clear the mine of explosive methane. Pratt said the main difference between a non-union and a unionized mine “is the right to say no” and refuse to work in a gas-filled mine.”

Theatre West Virginia:

Monday, May 9. 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

For Tickets Click Here

Woodrow Wilson Auditorium

400 Stanford Road, Beckley, WV 25801

(Next is Miss Dirt Turtle’s Garden Club)


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