Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gary Carden's play, Birdell, a smashing success for Netwest



Live theater came to Murphy, NC last night with Bobbie Curtis, actress from Lenoir, NC emerging from behind a black curtin as Birdell Tolley, octogenarian, outside her mountain cabin. At first she seemed a bit nutty, but in moments the audience was enamured with this small woman with the long white hair, telling in her delightful mountain twang, the story of her life beginning as a young girl falling in love with the man she married when she was an innocent fifteen.
Although we lacked a professional stage setup and had no back drop, Bobbie's props were perfectly placed for her act. Once Birdell was on stage and speaking, the missing set was forgotten and the listeners were caught up in the spell that is Birdell.
We learned about the early 20th century history of western North Carolina in that hour with Birdell.
I was asked after the play, "How did he know this woman? Did he interview her to know so many details about her life?"
Bobbie Curtis made the woman come alive on the stage and some thought she had to have been a real person, not a character made up in Carden's mind.
Others said, "It is hard to think a man can write about a woman and understand how she would have these deep feelings."
When my eyes filled and spilled, I thought it had to be because I'm an emotional mess these days, but I glanced around and saw others mopping away their tears as well. Within minutes, Bobbie Curtis changed the mood and had us laughing over some wild tale Birdy's husband used to tell. My favorite was the swinette he described to the TVA man.
We are all sorry Gary couldn't be with us last night. That would have been icing on the cake -- to hear how he came to write this play. Maybe we can persuade Gary to give us some background here on the blog.
Thank you, Gary and thank you Bobbie Curtis.
And many thanks to our Cherokee County Netwest members.
We'd love to hear from anyone who has seen Birdell. Please comment and tell us what you think.

4 comments:

  1. I got the idea for writing "Birdell" some 30 years ago when I read the famous interview with "Aunt Arie" that was conducted by Eliot Wiggington down at Foxfire. "Aunt Arie" later became the play/movie "Foxfire." Later, I heard an old lady living on Land's Creek in Swain County tell about how she refused to move when TVA flooded Hazel Creek, and how she woke one night to see a snake swim through her front door and out of her back door. I had read Duane Oliver's books on Hazel Creek and from there, it was just a process of putting it all together. Westley's "tall tales" were easy to come by since I had been telling them for years myself...especially the whip snake, hoop snake and milk snake. The "Swinett" tale is a reworking of an old dirty joke, and can be found in Georgann Eubanks' wonderful book, "Literary Trails of Western North Carolina."
    Gary Carden

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  2. Thank you, Gary Carden. The play was exceptional.
    Another exceptional thing is your generosity. Thank you for offering the play as a fundraiser for NCWN West. We will be saying thank you for a long time to come.

    I shall never forget the play, the writing of it, the performance and Bobbie Curtis on stage, alive as Birdell.

    Nancy Simpson

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  3. What a pleasure! What a treasure!

    Richard Argo

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  4. Each time that I post something on this blog, I wait... hopefully, for a response from Netwest members. There are always the stalwart, dependable few who respond because they understand that for those of us who create,a response is treasured. However, for the majority of members, there is no response. I find it disheartening. I would actually prefer a blog that REQUIRED a minimal amount of posting for membership. Thank you, Nancy and Richard and Glenda. At least, there are three brave voices echoing out there in the void.
    Gary

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