World Premiere of WINTER WHEAT Begins Performances Tonight at Barter Theatre
Barter Theatre presents the world premiere of a new musical set in Tennessee, during one of the most important turning points in American history. Based on true events, "Winter Wheat" tells the story of Tennessee's pivotal role in the passing of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
"Winter Wheat" will have a limited run of 8 performances tonight, July 29 - August 10 at Barter Stage II. The musical is a mini-production and part of Barter's Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights.
The musical's book and lyrics are by Catherine Bush, Barter's Playwright in Residence, and the music is by Ben Mackel, a former member of Barter's Resident Acting Company, and the composer of the popular children's musical "Billy Goat Gruff."
"Winter Wheat" takes a fascinating piece of American history and creates a musical that explores the personal stakes for the men and women who lived through it. The musical is set in the small east Tennessee town of Niota in 1920, as the country is abuzz over the controversial 19th Amendment. The United States was deeply divided over whether women should have the right to vote, and there was no guarantee that the Amendment would be ratified by a majority of states.
In the end, the ratification came down to a single state: Tennessee. And playwright Catherine Bush's research proved that sometimes truth is more exciting than fiction, as the Tennessee vote was decided by a single man: Harry Burn from Niota, Tennessee.
With an epic scope, the musical introduces fascinating characters, from the suffragists fighting for the vote, to the tenant farmers of Niota, the career politicians, Tennessee men afraid of the social upheaval coming their way, and Harry Burn's family, which was as divided as the country itself.
Nicholas Piper, director and artistic director of the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights says that the music and the story make this musical so compelling. "Catherine Bush and Ben Mackel have written an incredible new musical that examines one of the most pivotal events in our nation's history. It is compelling, moving and has new songs that you will be humming and singing long after you've seen the play."
The Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights is an annual festival that celebrates the richness of the Appalachian tradition by showcasing the stories of the region, both past and present, and the inspiration it provides the writers who live here.
Since 1933, Barter Theatre has been developing new works and nurturing area talent. The AFPP has gained national attention by developing a process that has resulted in new plays being produced not only on one of Barter's two stages, but in regional theatres across the country.
"Winter Wheat" is sponsored by Dunkin Donuts and Roadrunner Markets, with media sponsors Virginia Living, WETS and WKPT ABC-19.