THE HISTORY BEHIND
WATCHING WINTERBRANCH is a work of historical fiction, and as such it shares the experiences of a fictional cast of characters amongst the real life events happening at the time and place that acts as the scene for the story. That time is March 1964 (the 21st and 22nd to be exact)
and the place is Hartford, CT.
Below are some of the real life events that are mentioned in the story, as well as some that make for meaningful context.
I am considering writing a collection of short stories, one for each month of 1964, that follows Dray and her family and friends as they experience the changing world around them during a year proven by history to be deeply significant for the United States of America and the globalized world we all now live in. In learning about the daily and monthly events that took place during this year, I found myself lost in an incredibly meaningful and valuable historical context for the moment in time I (we) find myself in today - March of 2021. It's truly hard to grasp how parallel these two time frames are, how similar these moments will prove to be when they sit only chapters away from each other in the history books of our future. It is deeply upsetting, powerfully revealing, and in that way can be strengthening and heart-opening as well.
This is the a rough outline of the timeline I feel is significant to the world which is at play in Watching Winterbranch. All of these moments give context to this story and the stories within it and it is for that reason I share it with you. If I do decide to undertake this collection, I'll be sure to update this with the new research I gather as I do it.
March 12 - Martin Luther King, Jr. visits Hartford to help break ground on a new subsidized housing project downtown.
March 15 - Yale SDS students meet for three hours to begin planning the first major student-let anti-war in Vietnam protest. That protest did happen, two months later in May. The protest took place in Union Square in NYC and was the public group draft-card burning. Twelve students burned their cards as part of the protest.
March 20-22 (might have also included a Thursday night private performance on the 19th as well) - In a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Chick Austin and Lincoln Kierstien bringing Balanchine and the Ballets Russes to America via the Wadsworth, then contemporary art curator Sam Wagstaff brought Merce Cunningham and his dancers to perform a three-day celebration of Modern Dance. It seems as though the troupe were on tour in 1964, and the lineup at that time included Robert Rauschenberg as set, lighting, and costumer direction (and engineer, it seems), and John Cage as sound director and engineer. There were at least three difference pieces performed each day, for a total of at least twelve unique dances presented. While most of the dances were pieces that had been previously performed, Winterbranch was premiered during this event, most likely on Saturday the 21st. (Watching Winterbranch, however, takes place on Sunday the 22nd).
While there is little evidence or artifact of how the performances were received - aside from this great essay by Nicholas Fox which is all hearsay but I believe every word, and this cheeky Hartford Courant review which means squat in terms of the public reception - all signs seem to point to it being a less than favorable reception. Knowing what I know about the area and its demographics at that time (and through recent history) - particularly the arts going patrons of the Hartford region - as well as the history of the area (both anecdotally and through research), this doesn't surprise me in the least.
May 11 - Constitution Plaza in Hartford is officially finished and debuted.
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