Thursday, September 03, 2009
Friend and noted Appalachian playwright, Gary Carden, has a clip up on his blog, Holler Notes, of his play Nance Dude--perhaps the most popular of his works. You've probably seen or heard Gary narrating documentaries on PBS and the Documentary channel if you are an Appalachia buff as I am. He's a lovely gentleman, accomplished and talented out the wazoo. (I've got a bit of a crush on him, truth be told!)
I first heard a bastardized version of the Nance Dude tale told here in Cocke County. The actual story happened in neighboring Haywood County just across the state line. I considered it a story fragment at the time and did base a short story loosely upon it. It's a archetypal tale, Medean and horrible--just the sort of thing they love here in Cocke County. So, of course, they co-opted it into their own mythos. I've been here long enough to have some of my fiction told back to me as fact--it's all part of the rich Appalachian storytelling tradition.
Here's some background from Gary's post on the Nance Dude story:
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.Pretty amazing, eh?
So, go visit Gary's blog and check out Elizabeth Westall performing her monologue from Gary's play. She's been performing the role of Nance for 12 years. Check out some of his other posts while you are there--he's a wonderful writer.