Raised in the Saddle
Written by JAY KETTERING
Told in under 55 minutes, this comedy rolls across the Big Sky state via steam locomotive, following teenage cowgirl Alice Greenough as she encounters a who’s-who list of famous Montanans. Alice will need that ‘iron will’ she’s known for, because this train ride will prove every bit as exciting and challenging as sticking to the 1,200 pounds of buckin’, snortin’, and kickin’ muscle that’s waiting to greet her at her first rodeo competition!
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JAY KETTERING fell in love with theatrical writing the first time he heard an actor speak his words and understood that the words he had written no longer belonged to him. Surprisingly, it was a great feeling. Jay earned his BA in English/creative writing at the University of Montana in 1982 and is currently a working writer living in Missoula. Raised in the Saddle is his latest commissioned play for the Montana Repertory Theatre’s Educational Outreach; previous productions included: Writing Wild: The Adventures of Jack London and An Unladylike Battle for Survival in the Sunnyside Library. Montana Public Radio produced Jay’s radio comedy trilogy, Notes from the Huntley Project, the first episode of which, My Dad and Pre-Socratic Thought, won best Audio Play at the 2016 Moondance International Film Festival. Jay’s one-act play, Flotsam, Jetsam and Bill, premiered at the Theatre of Western Springs in suburban Chicago in 2015. Constant inspiration comes from his local writing group, the Zoola Writers. To help pay the bills, he drives for Uber, so give him a call and he’ll give you a ride and tell you a story.
Alice Greenough broke a lot of bones.
This was one of things that first jumped out at me when I began my research for this play. Of course, there were other historic bone-breakers—Evel Knievel comes to mind, but when Evel went flying through the air, he wore a helmet. Alice wore a hat.
I also discovered that this Big Sky Country has produced a lot more famous folks than I had realized. But there were other reasons Alice made it to the top of my list. As a young girl, Alice was ‘breakin’ horses—big horses—not the cute Shetland ponies of the petting-zoo variety. These were fully-grown horses who had never been ridden before, and how you ‘broke’ a horse was to stay on it until it bucked itself to exhaustion.
By the age of 17, Alice was already an expert horse racer and bronc rider, with roping and trick-riding skills to boot! When she started competing in rodeos, her dad would tell her to “take Willy with you,” and by that good ol’ boy phraseology, what he meant was she should take her willpower with her. Boy, did she! Grit, guts, determination, willpower, whatever you want to call it—she always brought it with her. This fierce competitor went on to become the best in the world and she seemed
to be having nothing but fun along the way.
I imagine Alice, a true pioneer of the rodeo, would’ve been the perfect model for the brush strokes of Charles M. Russell—all action, all color, all drama.
So that’s how I approached the writing of this play set in 1919. I tried to keep that idea in mind when I went looking for moments of Alice interacting with the slew of Montana celebrities she meets on the train. That seemed to work well because her history is neither old nor dusty: it is as alive and kickin’ as that young cowgirl trying to stick to a horse named Earthquake.
And it’s because of that, when the actor playing Alice comes on stage and tips her hat and smiles, well, I think you’ll find that smile turning the past into the present.