When did director Ellen Brand know her stage production of Millworker had gotten the community's attention? "When we put down 150 chairs and had close to 400 people come," she recalls of her show's one-night stand last November at the historic Chatham Mills building in Pittsboro.
Then came the phone calls--not just from folks who couldn't make it the first time, but seven historical societies who wanted the show to come to them. The result: a spring restaging--and a tour--for this staged adaptation of vivid stories, testimony from the mouths of those who worked the textile mills and populated the milltowns of central North Carolina during the early-to-middle 20th century.
After this weekend, Brand's company will perform the show in two other historic mills--in Gastonia, Apr. 25 and Charlotte, May 2--and a Hillsborough barn on May 6.
"Years ago I lived in Bynum," Brand recalls, "and I became very interested in the stories from the former millworkers I became friends with there. My grandparents had lived in a coal mining village that was also owned by the company, so when I moved to Bynum, it felt very familiar to me. I recognized there were similar narratives, a similar sense of community. I was drawn to their stories."
The stories--oral histories, compiled in the book Like a Family--are juxtaposed in this show with folk and gospel music from the period, and the songs of Dorsey Dixon, a North Carolina songwriter who also worked in the mills.
Join the crowds, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.