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‘Ivy Rowe’ adds dimension to BHS folk life

When the Brundidge Historical Society began to entertain the idea of producing a folk life play ten years ago, the thought never occurred to the members that the project might be a little too ambitious.

So, the organization went full steam ahead.

“Come Home, It’s Suppertime” is now Alabama’s Official folk life play and the recipient of the 2008 Governor’s Tourism Award.

In 2005, the BHS gave no second thoughts to expanding what it was doing in the area of folk life to include storytelling. Seven storytelling events, including three weekend festivals, later, the BHS is once again testing new waters.

On Thursday and Friday, June 11 and 12, the BHS will present a one-woman play, titled “Ivy Rowe” at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge.

The play is adapted from the Lee Smith novel, “Fair and Tender Ladies” and features Barbara Bates Smith with musician Jeff Sebens.

“Last June, the Brundidge Historical Society presented Gary Carden’s one-woman play, ‘Birdell,’ and Bobbie Curtis was so outstanding in her performance that many people thought that she was telling her own story,” said Dinah Kelsey, a member of the BHS storytelling committee.

“The response to the ladies’ luncheon was very good so we decided to consider making the luncheons an annual event.”

Kelsey said the committee is excited to be able to bring “Ivy Rowe” to the stage of the We Piddle Around Theater for two performances.

“The Friday night production is a box supper show, which will be much like the old-fashioned box suppers except you won’t have to bid for your supper,” she said.

“It will be different from anything that we have done, and it should be a lot of fun.”

Barbara Bates Smith’s performance of “Ivy Rowe” has received rave reviews everywhere it has played.

The New York Times called Smith’s performance “a rare and heartfelt performance that pays tribute to the heroism of strugglers everywhere.”

The Entertainment Network said “Ivy Rowe” is like watching a young cherry tree grow, bloom and blossom and finally stand tall on the mountainside.

Jeff Sebens’ music adds another dimension to Smith’s performance and lingers in the minds of the audience long after the curtain comes down.

“‘Ivy Rowe’ has become an institution,” Kelsey said. “Those who have read the book, ‘Fair and Tender Ladies’ or have seen the play understand that. Those who see Barbara Bates Smith’s performances will, too.”

The pre-show music for the luncheon will be by Amanda Porter, who is a lead singer with the Lighthouse String Ensemble.

The Lighthouse String Ensemble has appeared at Bill Monroes Bluegrass Jamboree in Bean Blossom, Ind., the Bluegrass Gospel Showcase in Nashville and the Great American Bluegrass Festival in Dothan.

Box Supper Show music will be provided by the WPA Scratch Band, the We Piddle Around Theaters official ‘sympathy band.’ The band is led by Lenny Trawick and Dan Fraley. The band is made up of a of musicians who play everything from the fiddle and the pi-anny to the washtub and the scrub board.

And, the audience is always invited to sing along.

The luncheon performance is sold out but a few tickets are available for the box supper show. Call 334-735-3125 for ticket information.