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Something magic about Suppertime

Webster defines "magic" as a mysterious power that produces extraordinary results.

Sara Bowden used the word to describe the Brundidge folklife play, "Come Home, It's Suppertime" for members of the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday.

"There's just something magical about the play," Bowden said. "None of us who are involved have been able to define what it is about the play that appeals to so many people. We just call it magic."

More than 2,200 people have seen the folklife play with storylines straight from the Great Depression era and straight from the heads and hearts of local folks.

"The script is original and it features stories about local people during the Depression and told by local people," Bowden said. "Some of the stories are humorous; others are poignant, but they all give insight into life during this historical era."

Bowden said the first production of "Come Home, It's Suppertime" was in the spring of 2002, but the seeds had had been in the hopper for a long time.

The idea originated about 10 years ago, when members of the Brundidge Historical Society, producer of the play, attended Georgia's Folklife Play, "Swamp Gravy."

"We realized that we, too, had stories that were worth telling and worth preserving," Bowden said.

Bill Grow of the Swamp Gravy Institute in Colquett, Ga. conducted a workshop for the historical group in the spring of 2000 and there was no looking back, Bowden said.

With nothing more than a dream and the promise of a burned-out building with a hole for a floor, representatives went to the Alabama State Council on the Arts with their hands hopefully out.

"The state arts council bought into our dream and awarded us a grant of $2,500," Bowden said. "That seed money and the support of the state arts council gave us the confidence to believe in our dream."

The city of Brundidge donated use of the old city hall building and installed electricity. Patrons of the arts made contributions to the project and volunteers put their hands to the plow.

"So many people were involved in bringing the first production to life," Bowden said. "The 'theater' was in the old city hall building, which was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. The WPA was dubbed 'We Piddle Around' because that what the workers were often accused of doing. We thought that 'We Piddle Around' would be an appropriate name for the theater because of its historical significance and because we were 'piddling around' and having a great time doing it."

When the curtain came up on the first production, it was magical.

"The magic is the entire experience," Bowden said. "It's the old burned out building; it's the sawdust on the floor; it's the artists' panels on the windows; it's the stories; it's the music; it's the food, but most of all it's the people who make it happen. The cast is composed of real people telling real stories about real people who were the backbone of our community. 'Come Home, It's Suppertime' is a chance to go home again and sit around the kitchen table and ponder. It's just magic."

The success of the folklife play has made it possible for the Brundidge Historical Society to purchase hickory chairs and sound and theater lighting systems for the theater.

"The city has been very supportive of the theater," Bowden said. "They have put in restroom facilities - in the old jail —

and running water in the kitchen area and made other improvements that were needed. We can't thank the city enough."

Bowden said dates have been set for the fall performance of "Come Home, It's Suppertime."

There will be six performances, Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1 and Nov. 6, 7, and 8. Tickets will go on sale Oct. 1. The numbers to call for tickets are 735-3460 and 566-7363.