Lynn Riggs, best known as the playwright that wrote "Green Grow the Lilacs" which was later adapted into the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!, is a beloved Claremore icon.
Now, a new two act play, "More Sky: The Story of Lynn Riggs" brings his story to life.
Claremore Museum of History Executive Director Andy Couch had a had in bringing the play to fruition.
Couch said he met Gregory Hinton, the playwright of "More Sky" when he came to Tulsa for a Gilcrease Theater event. Through a series of events and shared connections, Hinton was commissioned to do a Lynn Riggs play and to remain in Tulsa to conduct research.
"He stayed at my house in Tulsa and came to work with me every day to do research on Lynn Riggs. From that he created this screenplay," said Couch. "A lot of the artifacts in the museum have been reproduced for the set design in the play.
Greg tells me I curated the play, which I think is funny… It's wonderful because you see Claremore, Claremore History, and the Lynn Riggs memorial really represented throughout the details of this play."
Because the hosting Lynn Riggs Theatre in Tulsa has limited capacity due to COVID, the play will be available via a Facebook live feed.
And as if the premier of a new play wasn't excitement enough, Couch added, "Lynn Riggs family from Arizona has driven in just to see this play. They made a substantial donation of artifacts that belonged to Lynn to the museum. We now have additional film scripts, letters, photographs, books, playbills. They've really enhanced the collection through some of their own personal items that have been donated. When it rains it pours we're not only having a play but we received a great donation from the family."
About the play
Echo Theatre Company, along with the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center’s Lynn Riggs Theatre, is set to premiere “More Sky: The Story of Lynn Riggs”, a play about the life of gay, Cherokee playwright Lynn Riggs, who is perhaps most famous for his play “Green Grow the Lilacs” which became the basis of the musical “Oklahoma!”. The show will take place in August at the Lynn Riggs Theatre in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“More Sky” is a one-man show about Lynn Riggs’ life using letters, diaries, and other forms of communication found by the author. It is set in his Shelter Island farmhouse in his last stages of life as he shares his correspondence with friends, family, celebrities, and fellow Sante Fe artists over a 35 year period. The show explores his identities as a Cherokee native american, a gay man, and as an artist.
Riggs is portrayed by Russ Tallchief, an Osage actor who is descended from famous Osage ballerinas Maria and Marjorie Tallchief. The show is directed by Pat Hobbs, who is also the artistic director of the Third Thursdays in the Rainbow Room series at the Lynn Riggs Theatre.
“It is important to pay tribute to Lynn Riggs,” Hobbs said. “Sure, we have all known that ‘Oklahoma!’ was based upon ‘Green Grow the Lilacs’ by Claremore’s Lynn Riggs, but do we really know Lynn?”
“More Sky: The Story of Lynn Riggs” will play to a limited social-distanced seated crowd of 25 in the Lynn Riggs Theatre on Sept. 17-18, 2020. Additionally, a Facebook live feed will be provided on Thursday evening and the show will be taped and edited for future viewing on Oklahoman’s For Equality’s YouTube page. There is no fee or admission for any of these performances.
More information can be found on the Claremore Museum of History Facebook page.