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Friday, May 15, 2009

DRAW UP A CHAIR BY LOUISE HOWE BAILEY

Louise Bailey and Carol Murdock

Tania Battista (far left) as Lyda Mayben.



Pat Greenwald portrays
Louise Bailey (left).



Tom McCain (below) as Gran'dad Owenby
(far right).



Well, kind hearts, I am finally back on this blog. I got myself locked out of it a week ago and had to get help. I've been frustrated since I wanted to talk about the Blue Ridge Book Fair in Hendersonville and all the people that I met there. This blog is still a mess, but I am going ahead with a description of my primary discovery at the first night of the Blue Ridge Book Fair. I'm talking about Louise Howe Bailey, the 94-year-old author who was honored at a reception in Hendersonville at The Cedars. The recognition ceremony opened with a tribute from the noted author, Robert Morgan who has been a life-long friend and admirer of Mrs. Morgan. I intend to devote some space to this lady and will probably include photographs from the Book Fair by many of my friends who took a lot of pictures. (I managed to lose my camera), so I am dependent on people like Carol, Vicki and Rebel Fan.

Louise has spent her life as an "interpreter" of mountain history, culture and language. For us "natives," Bailey's books are a blessing. She not only defines the traditions and speech of those who "live beyond the beaten path," she explores them, and if necessary, defends them. For 23 years, she wrote a marvelous column for Hendersonville's Times-News entitled "Along the Ridges" that is consistently remarkable for its depth, empathy and humor. If I could pick the person who would be entrusted with the job of explaining Appalachia to the rest of the world, I would pick Louise Howe Bailey. Draw Up a Chair is only one of a series of books that contain hundreds of stories about the "lingering pioneer ways" that the author encountered in Henderson County - many of which Louise encountered when she used to ride with her father, Dr. William Bell White Howe, as he tended his patients in remote coves and hillsides.

There is probably nothing more elusive than pure mountain dialect in western North Carolina, but Louise captures it. Indeed, the highlight of the reception for the author was the dramatization of passages from Draw Up a Chair by three actors: Pat Greenwald, who portrayed the author, Tania Battista as Lyda Mayben and Tom McCain as Gran' dad Owenby. This enactment, called "A Louise Bailey Sampler" not only represented two memorable personages from the author's past, but presented them as dramatic monologues that were rich with mountain speech and tradition. Under the direction of Jeannie Gooch, the passages from Draw Up a Chair presented a vivid representation of a vanquished way of life. I loved it, especially since it was a masterful example of the type of "theater" that I try to do with my own work. If only I could do it as well as Louise!

7 comments:

  1. Thank Goodness you're back!We did have fun didn't we??
    ~ Carol ~

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  2. Oh, yes. It was best book fair that I have attended in the last decade (and that is a lot!)
    I hope to post a great deal more, but I am still having problems. The majority of my problems are
    related to my ignorance of blogging. Right now, I am tracking down Louise's books, and I just got a copy of the "Henderson County Lore" book that is going to be one of my favorites.

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  3. Glad you're back, Gary. Carol took a lot more pictures than I did but you're welcome to snag what you need from my blog post on the Showcase.

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  4. Glad you're back, Gary. I was getting a bit concerned. And I do want to hear about the book fair.

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  5. Hey,Gary. The girls and I enjoyed your session at the Blue Ridge Book Showcase. I'm gradually adding my postings about our Mother's Day weekend excursions to my blog (there's a picture of you there). I hauled all my younguns and grandbaby around to the graveyards in Henderson County for some Kuykendall-Ward genealogy lessons afterwards. Hope to see you at Birchwood next time.

    Regards,
    -carol

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  6. I'll have to check this out. It's a wonderful thing to have someone of that generation keeping mountain traditions, culture and language "truly" alive.

    And Gary, your plays are second to none!

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  7. Rebel Fan,
    Are you going to be at the production of "Prince of Dark Corners"a the Greenville Museum on June 5-6? It is time for me to start looking for props. I'm still mightly impressed by Louise Bailey. In fact, I would like to do a variation of that dramatic interpretation that I saw on the first night of the
    Book Fair.

    David,
    I think the monologue would go well in the Mountain Heritage Center.

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