Followers

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nance Dude: a dramatic monologue

Well, Kind Hearts, here, at long last, is a 4.5 minute clip from my play, "Nance Dude."(To enlarge the picture, simply click on the screen icon at the bottom of the screen right under the YouTube logo.) The actress is Elizabeth Westall, who has been performing the role for twelve years. It is, for whatever reason, the most popular work that I have. Since this clip is taken from the middle of the play, a bit of background might be useful. Nance Dude is a "real person" who was charged with the murder of her two-year-old granddaughter back around 1913. She was sentenced to 30 years of hard labor and was released after 15 years. She was 80 years old and came home to find that her own family rejected her. She ended up living in a one-room shack on Conley Creek in Jackson County. She remained a social outcast and was considered a witch by many of her neighbors. Her only companions were a pack of stray dogs that followed her. She supported herself by splitting kindling which she sold to "the Floridy folks." She died alone at the age of 104.

Over the years, people have come to believe that there were "mitigating circumstances" that were never brought to light about the murder. Nance had been forced out of the house where she was living with her daughter and told to "get rid of "Roberta," the two year-old-child ... the reason being that there were too many people living in the house. The old story about Nance says that she walked the roads of Haywood County for three days and was unable to find a home for the child. It was April and cold; the child was sick.

The story has become a legend in my region. Maurice Stanley's book, had a profound effect on this play. However, I grew up hearing the stories and often saw Nance walking along the roads in my region with a load of kindling on her back. (There is much more to Nance's story, including her love for a man named Dude Hannah.)

40 comments:

  1. Terrific. I've got to see this play. Need to see it.

    I've also got to visit YouTube more often, there're cips from Dark Corners, Gary talking about Gene Autry and one of him acquiring that rooster. Note Gary's face light up when he and the rooster make eye contact. That's true love, folks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wish I knew more about the mountain stories. What happened with Nance and Dude Hannah? Thanks, Gary, for pointing this monologue out to me.

    Judy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, Law! Gary, I have to watch for performances around my neck of the woods.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Judy,

    Nance was trapped in a loveless marriage when she had an affair with Dude Hannah and ended up living with him until he abandoned her. She woke up one morning and the front door was standing open. He didn't take anything with him but his fiddle.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This was great Gary! I would so love to see this play. I read Maurice's book and I have a soft spot for Nance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, fiddle dee dee...

    Thanks, Gary, for letting me know what happened to Nance and Dude.

    Judy

    ReplyDelete
  7. Gary,

    While attending WCU in the early 1960's I came into contact with a number of mountain people who had been raised in the coves and isolated communities of Western North Carolina. My first wife halied from the mountains north of Asheville where she had grown up in a culture that ostracized certain people who were considered to be a little "quare" or "spooky". For twnty years I heard story after story about the local outcasts and over time came to think that caste systems are not limited to the middle and upper classes of scoiety. I hope to catch a performance of "Nance Dude" before too long.

    Don

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yeah, I agree, but I don't think it requires an isolated community for the "socially correct" to ostracize their misfits. I grew up in a town where the local church ... the one that the middle class attended ... the one with stained-glass windows and a magnificent organ, did the same thing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Truly touching. I would love to see the whole play.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Very interesting story. Would love to know more information on this. Now you got me wondering guess I'll be doing some research now!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Beautiful performance. I'm very moved.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you, Angie!
    Now, if I can just talk you into giving it a shot.

    ReplyDelete
  13. At present, I have a film of "Nance Dude" that was made by Katie Brugger at the Highlands performance this past June. This 4.5 minute clip is from that
    film. What I need now is the resources to edit and package Katie's film and market it. I feel that it is a film that would make Elizabeth even more famous and would sustain me through the coming winter. Yeah, I know that the economy is bad, but somewhere out there is someone that will make this film a reality.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Gary, Elizabeth still gives me the chills every time I see her perform. She really IS Nance Dude, just as she "becomes" every character that she plays. The clip works really well with your introduction, and I wish I could see it again. Please give Elizabeth my "hello." And "BRAVO!" again.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I didn't sign my previous comment...it's Mary.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hey, Mary!

    There is a possibility that Elizabeth may do "The Raindrop Waltz" in Sylva this fall. She is a member of the Burnsville Little Theater and they told me recently that her husband had asked her to go back to performing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Gary, I put a feature on "The Read." Is there a page to which I can refer people to buy the DVD? Still following/Rob

    ReplyDelete
  18. Rob,
    I have given up trying to find a sponsor for the film of "Nance Dude," and I am going to borrow the money and finance it myself. I talked to Arthur about doing a package and a fitting introduction for the film tonight. I intend to borrow the money on Tuesday.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Gary, that gal who helps me out says this: I've seen that play of yours live and it something else, I'll say. How in the world you found a way to make us momentarily sensitive to that old woman, I don't know, but you did. Very nuanced. Worth seeing live, no doubt about it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Quite a story! I look forward to seeing the play and the DVD. Great story Gary.

    ReplyDelete
  21. That story tore my heart out when I saw it at Chautauqua AVE! in Andrews. Elizabeth made me cry. What a performer! She really brought your words to life. You may get some financial assistance from the NC Folk Life folks or the NC Humanities Council. They used to support great works like yours. Thanks so much for keeping our mountain heritage alive in such a provocative way. Where and when can I see the next performance of Nance Dude?

    ReplyDelete
  22. At the present time, Elizabeth is dealing with family illness. However, with a bit of luck, she will be back performing next spring. In the meanwhile, I am producing a film of Elizabeth's performance as Nance Dude. It, and some supportive material for historical background will be available by the last of October.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Lessie,
    I hear you are doing an October concert for the Friends of the Library. What are the specific details? Where? Time? I'll be there.
    Gary

    ReplyDelete
  24. Friday, October 30, 7pm at the Community Services Building. I look forward to seeing you there. Thanks, Gary.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Gary, Thank you so much for showing us the film in its entirety at the Jackson Co. Genealogical Society meeting tonight in Sylva. Being the genealogist that I am, I came right home and tried to find out more about Nance. I couldn't find her death certificate. I tried Kerley, Dude, Hannah with Nancy and Nance and no luck. Any idea? Also, was Flossie and Buford Insley/Ensley the real names of her daughter and son-in-law? Thanks for any help! I want 2 copies of your film when you get them ready!
    Linda Maxwell-Fisher

    ReplyDelete
  26. Linda,
    Nance's death certificate is reproduced in Maurice Stanley's book, "The Legend of Nance Dude" which is probably in the Sylva library. The book has everything including photos of Nance, Utah mountain, the cave and the search party that found Roberta. If you don't find a copy of the book, email me since I have about six copies. Nance's real name was Nancy Conard before she married Howard Curley. I "created" the name "Flossie." I real name was Lizzie. Nance's grave is in the Bumgarner Cemetery in Whittier. There is no headstone, but it has a little plastic marker on it now.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Gary, Thanks for your prompt response! The NC death certificates are on ancestry to 1975, but I need her last name. When I googled, the last name came up Kerley, not Curley. Which is correct? Are there plans to place a stone on her grave? The small stones are only about $200 or so. Think we can get enough donations to handle this? This woman suffered her whole life and her descendants, who should be placing the stone, should be able to visit her grave and see her name. Maybe one of the descendants would be willing to coordinate and see if enough donations could be raised (starting with her family) to do this act of love for this tortured soul.
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
  28. The name on her death certificate is "Nancy Ann Kurley." I wouldn't take that as definite proof of anything since misspellings are common on death certificates and markers. It may be that the proper sponsor for a stone marker might be the Haywood County Historical Association which readily acknowledges "Nance Dude" as part of Haywood County
    history/folklore.

    ReplyDelete
  29. What a sad story, Gary. You have "opened my ears" to many true stories over the years - stories that I had no idea of. Many of the tragedies in our past were engendered by the self same people that are ready to judge and punish.

    ReplyDelete
  30. My late Granny and I went to this performance in Sylva NC My granny was a wise woman and she loved to sit and read of all these past lives of the folks in as she would say our part of the country.She had a many of tales great stories of the way things were.My heart weeps for everyday she is gone. Thanks for helping me give her a wish come true. GREAT PERFORMANCES on a real life issue.
    LRP of Waynesville

    ReplyDelete
  31. This story fascinates me as I live "in the neighborhood," and I will read anything I can find on "Nance Dude."

    ReplyDelete
  32. This story has fascinated me from the time I first heard of it. My mother had an aunt that lived up the road from "Granny Kerley". This was after she had been released from prison and quite aged. She had a bunch of big dogs around her place. My mother said they would be walking to her aunts house and when they got to the edge of "Granny Kerley's" property, they would take off running and not stop til they were well past it. They were scared of her and people called her a witch. I suppose it was from gossip around back then.

    We saw the production of Nance Dude several years ago at one of the local libraries. It was absolutely wonderful. You would believe this woman WAS Nance Dude. I would love to see it again sometime.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I had heard the story of "Nancy Coonrod" since I was
    a little girl from my Grandfather. He also had a
    picture of her. when my daughter & I began to re
    search for information on her to write a story for
    a college paper, we came across a cousin that knew about the book. We bought it and read it over
    and over. I was so happy to finally learn about
    the story I had heard while growing up in the NC
    mountains of Sylva

    ReplyDelete
  34. I am looking for a CD of the performance that Elisabeth did of Nance Dude. I saw the clip and was very moved. I am currently using the Maurice Stanley book in my college class. My students are very interested in this story since many of them grew up around the legend and have "kinfolk" related to these people. I would LOVE any information that you may be able to give me.

    ReplyDelete
  35. my bad!! I meant DVD! But I found a copy at City Lights. This is a spellbinding performance that I feel everyone should see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GK, where/what is City Lights where you found NANCE DUDE? I have a copy that Elizabeth gave me but would like more.

      Delete
  36. Elizabeth performed Nance Dude tonight at the Rickman Store in Franklin. Her performance is so compelling we were deeply saddened by the plight of this woman and her child. Thank you for rich stories of life here in the mountains.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi, I am a decendent of Dude Hannah, and I'd just like to say his real name is John Crouse Hannah.

    ReplyDelete