From the Page to the Stage: Touring Theater performs Fred Chappell work

The Touring Theatre of North Carolina performed a theatrical adaptation to Fred Chappell’s poetic works Thursday, Nov. 15, at Western Carolina University’s Coulter Recital Hall.

The performance, titled “Look Back the Maytime Days: From the Pages of Fred Chappell,” was set in the 1940s and involved aspects of Chappell’s stories and storytelling.

With a little over 100 attendees, including Chappell himself, the show received positive reviews.

Ryan Harris, who attended the performance for extra credit, said, “It was hilarious, but it had all the hallmarks of really good writing.”

The program started with a brief introduction by the department head of English, Brian Gastle, along with a few statements from the director of the performance Brenda Schleunes.

The performance began with singing accompanied by a banjo and fiddle as the four cast members entered the stage and began all speaking at once. As they stopped speaking, they began recounting tales of their family. The mother, played by Camillia Millican, and the grandmother, played by Betsy Brown, started off with the tale of how Millican’s character met her husband, played by Stephen Gee.

It was a humorous and entertaining tale of how she slipped him an undergarment dyed red so he would have a kite to fly while teaching his students about Benjamin Franklin. Whenever the father began to speak, he would sing a short song about electricity. As the story progressed, the audience swelled with laughter as the son learned he was the offspring of a shotgun wedding.

Some of the other stories were of Uncle Gordon and his legendary beard; Uncle Ruckin, who was an obsessive believer in bad luck; Aunt Sam, who loved glamour music; and Aunt Chancy, who was not quite right in the head.

According to the tale, Aunt Chancy fell for a man who one day disappeared to go hunting. Many of the family members believed that Chancy had killed her husband, but there was no solid evidence, only cackle and rumors.

Following Aunt Chancy’s sad story, the cast took turns imitating Uncle Zino’s deep, groggy voice.

“It was done very well,” said Caitlyn Metcalf, a WCU senior. “Never read the poems, but I’m very intrigued.”

The final piece the performers sang was the story of the son, played by Drew Dupont, as he travelled through the mountains in search of the Wind Woman.

Following the performance was a quick question and answer session that Chappell and Schleunes both took part in.

Schleunes discussed how she created the play from over 900 pages of Chappell’s work.

“I’ve been doing this for 32 years,” said Schleunes. “It is very challenging.”