The new original play “Life Lines,” set to open at the McKinney Center on Feb. 28, has some special surprises that don’t often appear in ordinary stage shows. The stories found in this play come from real people from the region, and this year, several descendants got the role to bring their family members to life.
Actors Beverly Harrison and Kate Pierce both have ties to the Old Butler community, which was a town that was moved, and then flooded by the TVA in 1948 to create Lake Watauga.
They both appear in the scenes that follow the Butler storyline, including a moving piece when the centuries-old community discovers it must move in less than one year, as well as a haunting scene about the draw-down that took place in the 1980’s.
“The sidewalks were still there. The tall trees that were in our yards, they were still standing. No leaves of course. Steps led up from sidewalks, but to empty spaces.” explains Joyce Dean Garrison, an Old Butler resident who provided stories about the move for this play.
Both Beverly and Kate have the opportunity to experience, on stage, what their families experienced in real-life over 70 years ago — a dismantling of a community and a way of life. Yet, through the play they also have found the satisfaction of remembering the history and many people and places that were part of this town.
The reunion scenes, where residents come together decades later to hold a class roll call for Watauga Academy, the last class of which was 1948, closely resembles the actual annual reunions. They stand as a stirring reminder of the importance of holding onto a heritage so it isn’t lost to time and the elements. The importance of passing on the stories of place also plays an important role in the Life Lines play in general.
Desiree and Camryn Raynor are also actors in the play with the distinction of performing in a scene about their grandparents and great grandparents, respectively, as the story of Seavers Bakery is brought to life. This lighthearted scene provides a glimpse into how Seavers was originally formed, as well as shedding light on a few trade secrets.
This heartwarming production performs Feb. 28 through March 8 at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for students/seniors. Group rates are also available. To buy tickets, call the Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online at Jonesborough.com.
This play is sponsored in part by a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission and Ballad Health.