Showing posts with label new plays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new plays. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Carden's plays premiered Highlands Performing Arts Center

Congratulations to Gary Carden!


His new plays premiered at the Highlands Performing Arts Center this past weekend. "It was an incredibly successful event," according to Gary and we all knew it would be. He just won a Fleming Award for short story ($500). He was unable to attend the awards ceremony in Augusta, GA because he was in rehearsals for his newest play"Signs and Wonders."


The performance in Highlands included another of Carden's plays, The Bright Forever. This is a story about Shelby Jean and a young evangelical preacher in rural Georgia. "The Bright Forever" is a true story of Fanny Crosby, a blind woman who wrote 8000 hymns, including Blessed Assurance. The two theatrical pieces present a contrasting view on how religion affects people’s lives and were directed by Ronnie Spilton.
Gary Carden has been described as a storyteller with the "ability to blend humor with poignancy, a blend that allows him to bring to the reader the great themes of human existence -- love, death, bravery, fear, desire, success, failure -- without having to beat the reader over the head with these themes" by the Smoky Mountain News. Gary is also a folklorist and a storyteller. He was raised by his grandparents in Jackson County in a house filled with the past.

He says, “I grew up listening to a great deal of foolishness about 'bad blood' (mine), black Irish curses (my grandfather's) and the evils of being 'left handed' (I couldn't play a musical instrument.) I grew up with the cows, June apple trees, comic books, the Farmers' Federation and Saturday movies. My first stories I told to my grandfather's chickens in a dark chicken-house when I was six years old. My audience wasn't attentive and tended to get hysterical during the dramatic parts.”

He graduated from Western Carolina University and taught literature and drama for 15 years, worked for the Cherokee Indians for 15 years and has spent the last 15 years as a lecturer and storyteller. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from Western Carolina University in August 2008. Carden said in his commencement speech, "I couldn't get out of Appalachia quick enough" after his 1958 graduation from what was then known as Western Carolina College. "I wanted to be near theaters, book stores and nice restaurants. I wanted some culture," he said.

For 15 years, Carden worked as a teacher in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh, but as the years passed he said he became less and less happy.

Eventually, Carden came back to Sylva, NC for a visit and stopped at WCU's Mountain Heritage Center to hear a program by Southern Appalachian poet Jim Wayne Miller. Through the poems in his collection, "The Mountains Have Come Closer," Miller exhorts his readers to "come home."

"I took him literally, and I came home," Carden said. "I moved in my grandfather's house in Rhodes Cove, and for the past 40 years I've been trying - striving - to remember where I came from."

Other Carden plays and stories include "The Raindrop Waltz," "The Tannery Whistle," and "The Prince of Dark Corners."

NCWN West is grateful to Gary for the generous gift of his play, Birdell, which was presented in Murphy, NC in 2008. The ticket sales for this play were donated to NCWN West for the printing and publishing of Echoes Across the Blue Ridge. This is a good example of different forms of the arts community working together for the good of all.

Thank you, Gary, for your donation of the excellent play, Birdell.