Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wetumpka Depot: "Rumbling Waters"

The Wetumpka Depot Players continue their committment to serving the community with a charming production of "Rumbling Waters", a one-act history-drama designed to teach Alabama History -- more specifically, Elmore County & Wetumpka history -- to 4th graders.

Written and directed by Sherida Black, who gave a pre-show talk and introduced the woman who inspired her story, this 55-minute play contains a lot of concrete historical details [floods, fires, earthquakes, and other events are accurately referenced to actual families and individual historical figures, bridges, highways, and churches]. -- But this is more than a dry history lesson.

Set in flash-back to 1936, and narrated by Bertha [Teri Thompson] recounting her own family's history and the lessons she learned as a child about family, table manners, recognizing the good in people, folk stories, tolerance of differences among us, and recognition that the eccentricities we all have make indellible marks on us all.

In the opening classroom scene, what might be otherwise a dreary recitation of historical minutiae is made more palatable by inventive methods of teaching and learning: a competition between the boys and girls teams, and a simple song that teaches the Native American origin of the name Wetumpka [We-wa-tum-caw], target the 4th grade audience, and instruct adults as well.

Then come a series of scenes in which Bertha's childhood memories come to life. Bertha's Mama [Cheryl Jones] and Papa [Steve Phillips] have a brood of some 13 children, a snuff-dipping Black neighbor, Aunt Lula [Tunisia Thomas]. whose straightforward philosophy provides a solidity for the community, and a visiting Giant named Joe [Ryan Locklar] whose imposing presence frightens Young Bertha [Ellie Kate King], though his gentleness and compassion convert the little girl to his side.

Through Bertha's reminiscences, we are gently taught not only the details of history, but to be proud of our heritage. After all, quality is not determined by social status. -- These are all valuable lessons that ought to be shared. This production of "Rumbling Waters" -- if marketed well -- should receive the backing of Arts Councils and the community.