TRAIN TALES: Play will showcase Troy, Alabama history

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The first momentous lift to the town of Troy came in 1870 when the Mobile and Girard Railroad was extended from Columbus, Georgia, to Troy making Troy the center of trade for several counties.

What was it like on that momentous day when the train came to Troy?

That question will be answered with a musical flair when “The Day the Train Came to Troy” hits the stage in celebration of the Alabama Bicentennial in 2019.

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The musical will be produced by the Johnson Center for the Arts with funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Chapman Foundation.

“The Alabama Bicentennial Commemoration is planned as a three-year event beginning this year and culminating in 2019,” said Vicki Pritchett, JCA director. “The Alabama Bicentennial Commission encouraged Alabamians to find ways to discover, explore, share and commemorate Alabama’s storied past. At the Johnson Center, we knew immediately that we wanted to be a part of the Alabama Bicentennial celebration.”

As ideas were tossed around the one that came bouncing back was for a play that would commemorate Troy’s history.

“We enlisted the assistance of Tori Lee-Averett, director of Theater and Dance at Troy University and professor Tommy Newsome,” Pritchett said. “Both are playwrights with strong connections to our community. And, we also sought the expertise of historian Tray Ernest. We knew that, with those three on board, we could put together a play that would celebrate Troy’s history in a way that we could be front and center in Alabama Bicentennial Celebration.”

Pritchett met with the playwrights and historian, Monday afternoon to discuss ideas for the musical and, hopefully, decide on a time or an event on which to focus the play.

“Whatever idea we chose had to be developed around historical facts,” Pritchett said.  Several ideas were brought to the table. Innkeeper Ann Love and the coming of the train to Troy were at the top. However, Ernest said the coming of the train to Troy was perhaps the biggest single event in the city’s history.

If the train had not come to Troy, then Troy could have suffered the same sad fate of other towns that the train bypassed, Ernest said.

Pritchett said the consensus of the group was that a musical centered on “the day the train came to Troy” would be the ideal way for Troy to contribute to Alabama’s Bicentennial Celebration.

“What we hope to do is to focus on what happened the day the train came to Troy,” Pritchett said. “What was the atmosphere of the day? Who was there and what were they thinking? There had to have been people there from all walks of life –from the Silk Stockings streets to the mill streets. It had to have been a wonderful mix of people and there had to have been great excitement.”

Pritchett said the play will tell the story of that great day of celebration and anticipation of things to come.

“What happened that day will be told through stories, music and maybe even dancing,” she said. “But it won’t be a one-time performance. ‘The Day the Train Came to Troy’ can be performed at different times and in different venues. It’s a story to be celebrated, in Alabama’s Bicentennial year and far beyond.”