Friday, June 12, 2009
MEMORABLE "NANCE DUDE" PERFORMANCE
My favorite actress, Elizabeth Westall performed the dramatic monologue, "Nance Dude" for a mesmerized audience last night at the Martin Lipscomb Performing Arts Center in Highlands, N. C. Not only did the seasoned actress garner standing ovations (yes, several!), but the adoring audience kept her for almost an hour following the performance answering questions. They learned that Elizabeth is "technically blind," but moves about the stage with deftness and confidence (probably due to the fact that she has done this play several hundred times).
In the scene on the right, Nance reads from her Bible, stating that in her fifteen years in a penitentiary, she was urged to demonstrate that she was "penitent" by reading her Bible constantly. Elizabeth has performing this role for twelve years. In the beginning, the play was more complex: two scenes, set changes, complex lighting and sound effects. Now, the play has been reduced to a single scene and a bare stagewith the "props" in the photo on the left: a rocking chair, a wooden box, a Bible, a stump, a pile of fresh-cut kindling an ax and a jar of spring water.
Following the performance, I was invited to join Elizabeth on stage where we fielded questions from the audience about the "real" Nance Dude and the story of her murder trial that captured the interest of WNC in 1913. Although Elizabeth has announced that this was her "final performance," I am determined to persuade her to repeat this role for a fund-raising event in Sylva this fall.