When you study a theatrical production from the inside out as a cast member, you tend to see a different side of the story – usually a more in-depth tale.
That is what the cast of “Smoke on the Mountain” found in its six weeks of rehearsal.
I played the part of Burl Sanders, the father and household head of a family of Gospel music singers. They make their living in rural North Carolina in 1938, “Running a little filling station-grocerette upon Highway 11 near Siler City.”
Each character exhibits his or her own life challenge, showing how they got from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in their lives.
Burl is trying to trust in his God but is running into the challenge of making sure a family of five (six – his brother Stanley has just returned from prison) gets food and shelter. At first I characterized Burl’s dilemma as a challenge, but looking deeper we see fear.
That fear – as for all of us – presents a quandary for Burl. It helped bring to life the reality of people faced with similar challenges and fear.
He is “looking at the bank taking over his store, his family wasting away to nothing” because his competitor up the road has started selling beer and has drawn away what appears to Burl at the time to be all of the income that had been coming to the Sanders’ store business. The beer challenge aside, does this story sound a bit familiar to anyone out there?
Is anyone looking at the bank taking over his store (or house)? Is any household head out there living the fear of his or her family wasting away to nothing?
Burl found his answer by trusting in his Lord to provide customers and to be patient and wait on things his family wants but doesn’t need. He also looked constantly for ways to support his family in a way that he felt acceptable.
Stanley, the wayward brother, played by Jim Barlow, has come home, to the welcoming arms of his brother and family and learns the difficulties and benefits of being a part of the family. People want to tell Stanley how to live, and he doesn’t take to it to well, but he is trying to stick it out and learn.
Stanley also teaches us not to judge.
In Stanley’s time, the closing days of the Great Depression, as in our own, many families had their homes and existences downsized. Many were homeless, traveling from place to place with all their belongings carried on their backs or the back of a truck. Many good people have bad things thrown in their way. That’s how Stanley ended up doing hard labor “hanging over the Yadkin River, popping rivets into bridges” for 18 months. There he meets many men that are much like him and like the rest of us.
And Stanly takes another step in his walk of learning and living with people.
And we can take the step with him for a time through the benefits of theater.
I tell stories every day about the happenings in Ashe County.
I look for the right words and combinations and phrasing and the right placement in a paragraph to deliver the message effectively.
None of my word stories are more powerfully told than the one’s acted out on stage for all to see.
West Jefferson United Methodist Church has offered Ashe a good route to learning.
Ashe County Little Theater will offer us another story told and acted out when it presents “Camelot” June 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28. Tickets will go on sale on a month before show dates.
“Camelot is a tale of love, good overcoming evil, human frailty, life changes, enduring principles and some great music.
Let’s all watch, listen and learn about that story.
Lonnie Adamson is Editor/General Manager of the Jefferson Post.