Georgia’s Official Folk Life Play has been stirring up a town’s history for two decades, bringing with it fresh faces and community talent.
The Colquitt-Miller Arts Council announces Swamp Gravy’s twentieth anniversary production, Swamp Gravy: Live and Learn, written by local playwright and former cast member Will Murdock. This year’s production is guaranteed to be unlike any other Swamp Gravy performance you have seen before. The volunteer cast consists of 24 new members, 73 returning members, and 2 original members. It is one of the largest casts Swamp Gravy has ever seen.
Community-minded citizens started Arts Council in 1989 with Swamp Gravy as its first official project. Joy Jinks and Dr. Richard Geer met at a conference and the two of them developed the idea of a community performance which later grew into the now successful Swamp Gravy. It started out as a one-time only performance at the elementary school auditorium with a collection of community stories by Jo Carson. Not long after the first performance, it expanded into its present day home, Cotton Hall, where thirty-two shows are performed annually. Over the past two decades, Swamp Gravy has been seen as more than just Community Theater, but as an economy booster for Colquitt and surrounding communities, and an emotional healer to those who experience it.
Among the new faces that can be seen at Cotton Hall this season is the Colquitt-Miller Arts Council’s new Artistic Director, Haley Rice of Thomson, Georgia. Before becoming part of the Arts Council, Haley was the Acting and Movement Instructor at Columbus State University and prior to that she received her MFA in Acting from Illinois State University and her BA in Theatre from the University of Georgia. Entering during the twentieth year, Haley feels sublimely lucky to be working in a theater with such an established role in the community and believes audience members will learn invaluable lessons this season just as she has from working with the cast of volunteers.
“I told a friend recently that this was the hardest job I’ve ever had, but it’s also the most fun. Negotiating and learning how to communicate with each cast member while relaying your gratitude and giving them what they need is a tough business. But I like a challenge! I’ve already learned to trust the process. I think that’s an invaluable lesson.”
This year the Arts Council welcomes back, Elizabeth Bojsza for her third year as Swamp Gravy’s dramaturg. Elizabeth graduated from Stony Brook University’s MFA dramaturgy program in 2004, and has stayed on at Stony Brook as an adjunct faculty member, supervising graduate students and teaching public speaking, screenwriting, American Theatre, and co-teaching Prevention Through the Arts. She is also the literary manager of Young Playwrights Inc., a non-profit theatre company founded by Stephen Sondheim and dedicated to fostering the development of playwrights 18 years of age and younger. Each year, Elizabeth is amazed, moved, and transformed through her role as an artist working with the community and their stories.
“I think it is truly special that Colquitt and the surrounding areas are generous and courageous enough to tell their stories– the good and the bad- and that the cast is willing and dedicated enough to bring those stories to life though theater. The stories and the people give this project an authenticity and efficacy that I don’t ever see in traditional professional productions. “
It doesn’t matter if audience members have experienced Swamp Gravy for twenty times or this being their first, they will leave with a sense of self-reflection and memories that will stay with them the rest of their lives. Come experience the magic of Swamp Gravy and celebrate twenty years of storytelling!
Swamp Gravy: Live and Learn will run every weekend in October with Friday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday performances at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. More information on tickets and shows can be found at www.swampgravy.com.