Brundidge Council to vote on BHS request to lease We Piddle Around Theater building

Published 3:01 am Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Brundidge City Council will consider today a request by the Brundidge Historical Society to lease the former city hall building that now houses the We Piddle Around Theater.

Lawrence Bowden, BHS immediate past president, made the request to the council at its June 6 meeting.

“The BHS is requesting that we be allowed to lease the building in order to preserve the uniqueness of the theater,” Bowden said. “We are not asking in a selfish manner. The building had been gutted by fire and standing vacant for nearly 10 years. In 2002, the city allowed the BHS to renovate the building for use as a theater, not as a rental facility.”

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Bowden said the BHS has invested time, talent and dollars into the renovation of the building for use as a community theater.

The theater is now the home of “Alabama’s Official Folklife Play, “Come Home, It’s Suppertime,” which is produced in April and November each year by the BHS. The folklife play is in its 16th year of production and has received the Governor’s Tourism Award.

“ ‘Come Home, It’s Suppertime’ is the hallmark event of the We Piddle Around Theater but we have other events throughout the year which are also widely recognized,” he said. “The Piddle Piddlers Storytelling Festival celebrated 11 years in January. The event attracts more than 1,000 people each year and the BHS hosts a storytelling concert for all the high schools in the county and takes one teller to a local elementary school.”

The We Piddle Around Theater is home to the two other annual events, June Buggin’ in the summer and the Chili Country Christmas in December. The theater is also the home of the “We Play Around Summer Theater Workshop for kids.

“The atmosphere of the theater – its uniqueness – is central to what we do,” Bowden said. “The play is outstanding, so are the other productions but put them anywhere else and it wouldn’t be the same. The uniqueness of the theater is in a large part the success of all that we do. To turn the theater into a rental facility would greatly diminish its uniqueness.

“We have something very special in the We Piddle Around Theater. People are continually amazed by its uniqueness. We want to preserve it for our community and we are asking the council to help us do that.”

Council Member Margaret Ross, District 3, said the former city hall building was built in 1940 as a Works Progress Administration building with the unique brickwork done by some of the finest brick masons in the city.

“When the historical society was given permission to renovate the building, there was nothing there but a dirt pit and burned out walls,” said Ross, who was involved in the early productions of the original folklife play.

“The play was a community effort. S.A. Graham Construction donated the dirt to fill the hole so the building would have a floor. Members of the business community donated money for the materials to build the stages and tables. Russell donated the material for the curtains; inmates at Easterling made the tables. Artists donated the artwork that covers the windows and decorates the walls. Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church No. 2 loaned chairs. So many people contributed to the efforts to bring community theater to Brundidge.

“We need the theater for our town. We need to give people of all ages a place and an opportunity to use their talents in a good and positive ways.”

Councilman Chris Foster, who is the president of the BHS, said he is hopeful that the City of Brundidge and the Brundidge Historical Society are able to mutually decide what is best for the historic, unique structure that houses the We Piddle Around Theatre and what is best for the city and the citizens of Brundidge.

“Because of the unique circumstances surrounding the building, ownership and right-to-use is very confusing,” Foster said. “The City of Brundidge and the BHS have a very good working relationship. I would like to see this relationship continue as the city continues to progress.”

Brundidge Mayor Isabell Boyd and Betty Baxter, District 1, declined to comment ahead of today’s council meeting. Council Members Arthur Lee Griffin, District 2, and Byron Gaynor, District 4, could not be reached by phone.