Review Fix chats with “The Long Rail North” playwright Michael Hagins, who discusses the inspiration for the production and who will enjoy it most.
About the Production:
The Long Rail North centers on Pvt. Thomas Morgan, a black union soldier, who must escape via train with a young southern white girl named Molly Barnes that he rescued from a plantation fire of a nearby Civil War battle. Exhausted, with limited resources and even fewer allies, Morgan (played by Xavier Rodney) continues traveling north getting Molly to safety – despite her racist view of him and his race. Regardless of his good intentions, both union and confederate forces pursue them.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Michael Hagins: A love of history about the Civil War, which does include the movie Glory, and also the idea of the lone Black man fighting and doing the right thing. This play has been a part of my life for 20 years, and I feel so happy that I can be confident enough to show it to a live audience.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Hagins: A lot of stress. I want every play to be ready as soon as I hit the final period, and it is NEVER that way. Luckily I have so many creative artists around me that help me workshop my plays and make them ready.
In the end though, it’s always worth the journey from the first line to the final performance.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special from other plays of this subject matter?
Hagins: The Civil War is not often tackled in this way, because you probably could count on one hand the number of works that involve African-American soldiers. And frankly…I don’t want to see every play on the subject being about slavery. It’s not fair that African-Americans have to keep playing slaves and maids and other stereotypes, because they did much more, and those stories should be told.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process? What did you learn about the country?
Hagins: That I have a fantastic cast and crew who love this play. I’m a perfectionist, and even when I hear a line I don’t like, my cast assure me every time how much they love the play. And my crew behind the scenes are just so dedicated to the process. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew.
And as for the country, I do realize that a lot has not changed, especially when it comes to me as an African-American. Sometimes I feel like I don’t entirely belong here, and there are times I don’t even feel welcome. And it didn’t take The Long Rail North for me to think that.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Hagins: I want this cast and crew on Broadway, and maybe even the movie if I ever get the chance. Every actor, the director, the tech director, the costumer and stage manager need to be on Broadway now. As in tomorrow. Hire them. If they can make me happy and make my show great, the next show they do will be so lucky.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Hagins: Continuing to find inspiration for my next work, and wondering just how much I need to say to express my anger, and how much I need to hold back in case it’s too much.