Two plays crafted by Sylva writer Gary Carden will be presented at Western Carolina University in March to benefit the new library fund of the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library.
Carden’s “Birdell” will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday, March 12, in the auditorium of WCU’s Coulter Building, while “Nance Dude” will be presented Friday, March 19, at the same time and location. Both presentations will feature actress Elizabeth Westall and are being co-sponsored by WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center and School of Music, the Jackson County Arts Council and the library Friends.
The Friends organization is engaged in a fundraising campaign to raise $1.6 million to purchase the furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new Jackson County Public Library Complex, currently under construction on Courthouse Hill in Sylva. The campaign has collected more than $1.4 million so far, and among the contributions is a $250,000 challenge grant from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation.
Both plays are one-act monologues that portray the authentic voices of Appalachian women. “Birdell” is based on the lives of families who lived on Hazel Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains until the coming of the national park, and is told from the perspective of the fictional character Birdell as she reflects on her long life. Carden based his play “Nance Dude” on the book, “The Legend of Nance Dude” by Maurice Stanley. Both play and book depict a Haywood County woman who was convicted of killing her granddaughter in 1913.
A native of Sylva, Carden earned two degrees at WCU and for more than four decades has presented traditional mountain culture to the public as a teacher, storyteller, novelist, historian, screenwriter and playwright. WCU recognized Carden’s body of work in presenting him with an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2008.
Westall, a Yancey County native who earned degrees at Berea College and Duke University, taught English and drama before her retirement in 1985. Since then, she has acted and directed in numerous regional productions.
Tickets prices for the shows are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for students.