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Seeing Your Destination Through Local Eyes

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By Wayne Lazarus on July 29th, 2009

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Many travelers find themselves wanting to know more about a location than the slick brochures or the opinion of the server at the restaurant. Nothing reveals the heart of a community like a folk-life play.

Originating in 1991 in Colquitt, Georgia with “Swamp Gravy,” a folk-life play consists of local people portraying stories gathered from those who live there. Not only can you learn a lot about a place through this kind of theater, you may discover a kinship with people in places that you never imagined you would have.

While most include a lot of humor, music and dancing, folk-life plays usually go a little deeper than a musical. In Harlan, Kentucky, prescription drug abuse became rampant in the 90′s. The town’s play, “Finding Higher Ground” (http://www.ket.org/muse/higherground/index.htm) produced in the spring each year) shows people facing the ripple effects of both the frequently flooding river and the drug abuse. “Headwaters,” produced every July in North Georgia’s Sautee-Nacoochee, (http://snca.org/performingarts/headwaters.html) portrays issues of diversity and integration. One year Swamp Gravy (http://www.swampgravy.com, March and October) included a scene about child molestation, based on the memories of an elderly woman who had never revealed the experiences from her childhood. Real issues acted on stage often serve to spark a community dialog that didn’t exist before.

There is no centralized source to find these kinds of plays. An internet search reveals “Hillfire” in Winona, MS (http://www.hillfire.org, October,) “Come Home, It’s Suppertime,” in Brundidge, AL (http://www.piddle.org/supper.htm November), Salkehatchee Stew (http://www.salkehatchiestew.com, April) in Hampton, SC, as well as Boogaloo Folk Life (http://www.boogaloofolklife.com, June) in Union, SC. Chicago’s Scrap Mettle SOUL has been performing plays based on locally gathered stories about the community for ten years. (http://www.scrapmettlesoul.org.) Try “folk-life play” and “story-play” in your internet search the next time you travel to see a place through the eyes of its people.

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