Home-front Tales, Varying Perspectives
The tales progress from Lee Smith’s plucky young girl orphaned by the Civil War in On Agate Hill, to Ron Rash’s brave young “Lincolnite” wife under threat in Confederate territory, to Allan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow… telling not all, but a few carefully selected pearls from her repertoire.
"I love this piece, each section so strong on its own, the progression from the child to old age and from the particular to the larger themes. It is really powerful," says Lee Smith herself.
“Vivid storytelling by Barbara Bates Smith and the idyllic live music of Jeff Sebens” is an earlier accolade from the Triangle’s Independent Weekly, heightened in this one-hour show adapted from these works:
ON AGATE HILL
In Lee Smith’s historical novel, Molly Petree returns to the plantation where she first kept her diary:
In her secret cubbyhole she makes up love stories with dolls named Margaret and Robert E. Lee. Her fantasizes, "I want to have a demon lover... and also a real boy who will be my husband." In a field where there had been a skirmish between the home guard and Sherman’s bummers, she finds the bones of a human hand. “Aha!” she says. “This is a Yankee hand!”
Adding further intrigue to this hair-raising story by Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author, is its inspiration from an event that occurred to his Union-supporting ancestor. A young mountain woman, alone in Confederate territory, is bravely keeping farm and family together while her husband serves in the Union army. It's Ron Rash at his suspenseful best!
“Lily thought again of the Washington newspaper Ethan had brought with him on his Christmas furlough, how it said the war would be over by summer. Still Ethan had slept in the root cellar every night of the furlough and stayed inside during the day, his haversack and rifle by the back door… because Confederates came up the valley from Boone looking for Lincolnites like Ethan.”
Lily is alone when a marauding, renegade Rebel soldier appears, whistling Dixie as he confiscates her draft horse. To save her farm she is compelled to a surprising and chilling action. (Will he ever whistle Dixie again?)
OLDEST LIVING CONFEDERATE WIDOW TELLS ALL
This first novel by Allan Gurganus was a New York Times bestseller for eight months.
“Died on me finally. He had to--my poor husband, Captain William Marsden. He perished one Election Day. Children were setting off firecrackers on our vacant lot. Cap believed it was Antietam flaring up on him again like a game knee. So he went happy, yelling March! To his men (all dead) and to me (not dead yet, thank you very much.) Sitting here in this ‘Home,’ making statements to the Press, eating what I didn’t cook.”
This stage version highlights episodes surrounding Appomattox, Robert E. Lee, President Lincoln, and, in the widow’s final years, her thoughtful ruminations about the Viet Nam vets grouped around the mall fountain.