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IF I HAD MY WAY THE PRODUCTION JUNE 16-20 2022

If I Had My Way is about life: laughter, tears, music, pride and fear; strong women and willful men; longing and unrequited desires; family and home; the past, the future and the magic of citrus blossoms.

The play touches on the shared experiences of farm help, the children of enslavement (in its many forms) and people, often forced into warfare, who find themselves captured, put on ships and told to work during the day and live behind barbed wire at night.

The four events of The Hayes Project might seem unrelated at first.
But they're not.

I am taking the creation and evolution of the play through some winding steps from reading to final production.

The Project begins in December with an open reading of the script for IF I HAD MY WAY.

It takes a right angle into spoken word/jazz improvisation for JAZZ SPOKEN HERE, with myself and the jazz trio La Lucha, where we explore the rhythms behind the words.

In the spring comes THE MOCKINGBIRD NEWS , a one-person show with live percussion that explores aspects of stories, fables and lies in 5 short acts.

Finally, everything learned from those events will feed back to IF I HAD MY WAY, with a full production in June, 2022. Looking at the evolution of a play from seemingly unrelated angles is probably not something audiences or would-be playwrights would consider, and the addition of musical elements in decidedly non-musical plays often sparks new ideas for creating new works.
Florida, 1945. A young woman, Margaret Perry, educated in the North, reluctantly returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing mother. Finding herself in the same ranch kitchen where her mother and grandmother toiled all their lives, she resents every aspect of her situation, rejecting friendship and suitors, until her abrasive and bitter attitude is broken by a person she considered invisible: the Italian POW, Piero Alloca, brought to the ranch as replacement help.

America is still in the grips of the War, not knowing Germany will surrender within months. A combined cattle operation and citrus grove in an unnamed Central Florida town (based on Kissimmee), the ranch is owned by Nathaniel and Alicia Jamison. At the time, Central Florida is the country's great seat of citrus and cattle ranching, long before the Texas longhorn exodus and theme parks took over the local tourism industry.

Eventually breaking down her resistance, Piero uses lessons learned in his own mother's kitchen to remind Margaret of the beauty of food, and teaches her to value things within her grasp. Meanwhile, the owner's son, Ty, involves himself in the uglier side of Florida life, full of hatred and the raging and violent influence of the then rampant Klan.

And then the citrus groves bloom, and during one magical, perfume-filled night, every relationship in the house changes.

Set in 1940s Florida, where the realities of WWII and its drain on local manpower meant a shortage of workers on local farms, a shortage addressed by the US Army by "lending" residents of area POW camps to fill the gap - Kissimmee Air Base was developed as an Italian detainee camp and became such a part of local community that POWs would often be seen shopping in downtown Kissimmee and even going to the movies.

THE December 5 CAST


  • plays:

    MARGARET PERRY — Originally from Florida, she headed north as soon as she could, getting an education and a new life in Atlanta and New York. Her mother has worked in the ranch kitchen all her life, and upon the news that she was gravely ill, Margaret returns to take care of her and finds herself working in the same kitchen from which she thought she’d escaped.

  • plays:

    PIERO ALLOCA — an Italian prisoner of war, being held at the POW camp that today is an airport in Kissimmee FL. A "model prisoner", he is trusted enough to be assigned to cleaning duties inside the house. He wears denim pants and jacket, with the letters PW on his back.

  • plays:

    BERNICE “BENNIE” BELL — a young woman, working in the kitchen. She has no plans for her future, except to enjoy life, take no backtalk, and somehow escape her abusive father.
  • plays:

    BOUDREAUX “BO” DOUCETTE — ranch foreman. A Black man in a position of power, originally from New Orleans, trusted by the Jamisons. He wears a glove on his left hand, covering an injury that has kept him out of the Army.
  • plays:

    MRS. ALICIA JAMISON — nee MacCorrie. It is her family that has owned the ranch for generations. She is an impressive, flighty and very self-assured woman, never quite settling in one place for long.
  • plays:

    NATHANIEL JAMISON — ranch owner. A surprisingly enlightened man for the times, he treats his ranch hands with respect, often out in the fields himself. He loves his cattle, not-so secretly hates the groves.

  • plays:

    TY JAMISON — Their son. Wild, uncontrollable, spoiled. A survivor of the 1925 polio epidemic, he is weak on one side and limps badly. Being seduced into a Klan-like group by his friends, he resents not being in control of the ranch and takes it out on everybody.


  • Joseph Reed Hayes
    Director, producer and actor Avis-Marie Barnes brings her talents to the If I Had My Way stage.

    Avis-Marie plays:

    THE DIRECTOR — As Mary Church Terrell in "My Lord, What a Night", Anita Jones in the best TV show ever,  Lodge 49 and roles in Treme, Seven Guitars, Oedipus, Best of Enemies, A Raisin in the Sun and television's Greenleaf, Doom Patrol, Stranger Things and Atlanta, and the films Jeepers Creepers, Before I Wake and Confirmation, Avis is the epitome of the actor's craft.
    Avis-Marie Barnes

  • Joseph Reed Hayes
    Joseph Reed Hayes celebrates 20 years of writing and producing plays with this Project and this play.

    Joseph plays:

    THE AUTHOR — What I call "The Orange Play" has been floating around since 2007, fostered by a Galati Research Grant from the Kerouac Foundation; a United Arts of Central Florida Professional Development Grant; an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs; and invaluable advice from playwright and poet Cornelius Eady while at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. It had staged readings in Orlando in 2009 and NYC in 2012. This is its first production.
    Joseph Reed Hayes

CONTACT ME

freelance writer

As a writer on assignment, I've traveled to Italy, Scotland, England, New Orleans, California and New York City, with a specialty on all things Orlando. Whether it's a story about Arts & Crafts houses in Florida or new styles in computers, a Mounted Police squad or alien abduction insurance, I've written it. Environmental issues, music, movie and theater reviews and in-depth conversations with legends in jazz. Interviews and personality profiles are my specialty.

playwright

My plays take place on buses and in bars, in hotel rooms and government offices, farmhouse kitchens and jazz stages. 49 productions and readings of my plays from coast to coast and in three countries since 2001; creator of House Theater Project and the year-long 13in13 series of shows.

"Best local playwright: Joseph Hayes" - Orlando Sentinel

food writer

Florida Magazine Association Award winning food writer and Orlando restaurant critic. James Beard Foundation judge, knowledgable champion of world cuisine and avid advocate of undiscovered chefs.

EVENT producer

Producer of the Jazz On Edge series, spotlighting new and original jazz from Central Florida since 2008, showcasing the best that Central Florida has to offer in jazz to appreciative audiences, giving creative hometown and nationally-known musicians a place to perform their own music, without boundaries, in person and online. Founder Word Play series, former Chair of Alternative Programming, Timucua Arts Foundation.