Curtain to rise on Brundidge folklife play

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Features Editor

There was a time when Main Street in Brundidge was a-buzz with activity created by theater goers.

The Opera House was the center of activity for the small, farming community that took on the "air" of a more upscale community every time the curtain went up.

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For several years, the idea of bringing live theater back to Brundidge has been circulating among different groups and organizations.

At the turn of the century and the beginning of a new millennium, the Brundidge Historical Society decided it was time to put legs to the idea and began to look for ways to make it happen, said Randy Ross, a member of historical association.

"We knew there was a lot of interest in a folklife play that would tell the story of our community," Ross said. "Brundidge is a small town, but we have more than our share of unforgettable characters and many stories and tales that need to be told and retold. We wanted to preserve and promote the cultural and physical heritage of our community, not just Brundidge, but all of the surrounding communities that are a part of it. We thought the best way was through a folklife play."

In the spring, interested citizens attended a workshop presented by the Swamp Gravy Institute of Colquitt, Ga., the home of the renowned folklife play Swamp Gravy.

"What we want to do is somewhat like what they are doing in Colquitt, but it is also somewhat different," Ross said. "Our first production, ‘Come Home, It’s Supper Time’ will be taken from a collection of stories from Brundidge residents and will be set during the Depression era. The actors will be people from our community, but we will have a professional script writer and director in charge of casting and producing the play."

Ross said plans are to have story gatherings in preparation for a different production each year.

"This will be a community effort and will involved all ages," he said. "Of course, we hope that it will be an attraction that will bring visitors to town, but the main purpose is to provide theater opportunities the people of our community. We have a lot of talent and we want to provide an outlet for it."

For the folklife theater to become a reality, a lot of things had to fall

into place.

"One of those things was actually a place," Ross said. "We looked at several places that were available, but we couldn’t find what we were looking for. Randall Thompson suggested the old city hall and we talked to Mayor Jimmy Ramage and he liked the idea."

Bill Grow, who conducted the workshop for the Brundidge group, said the building is similar in size to Cotton Hall in Colquitt, home of Swamp Gravy.

"The mayor has worked with us and we believe the old city hall will make a perfect community theater," Ross said. "The city is in the process of putting windows in the building and perhaps a floor. The historical society will accept the responsibility for staging, stage lighting and seating and we hope to have the support of other organizations and individuals."

Because the historical society is a non-profit organization, the group looked for ways to fund the project. One of those ways was through a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and Humanities.

"We have applied for funding through the state arts council and we are hopeful that we will receive some assistance," Ross said. "This project is going to be good for our community. It is going to be something new and different. We are excited that it will provide opportunities for the people of our community to use their creativity and their talents in a project that will bring recognition to our town, its people, its past and the bright future that we believe is ours."