Outdoor Drama

"From This Day Forward" chronicles the journey of Waldensians as they left Italy to flee religious persecution.

VALDESE - - The Old Colony Players drama troupe invites the community to once again experience the faith and bravery of the Waldensian immigrants who founded the town of Valdese in 1893.

The group will present its annual outdoor drama, “From This Day Forward,” today at 8 p.m. at the Fred B. Cranford Outdoor Amphitheater at 401 Church St. NW in Valdese. The show will run on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. every week through Saturday, Aug. 10.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors age 60 and older and $14 for students or groups of 15 or more.

Edyth Pruitt, general manager of the Old Colony Players, said professional actor David Sebren is directing this year’s show. A native of Asheville, Sebren earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Master of Fine Arts from Florida State University.

“I worked for four other outdoor dramas, including ‘The Lost Colony’ and Snowcamp Outdoor Theater, which are both in North Carolina, and Theater West Virginia and ‘Trumpet in the Land’ in Ohio,” Sebren said. “My MFA is in directing, so this is really what I love doing.”

Pruitt outlined the plot of the show.

“It’s the story of the Waldensian church and the founding of Valdese,” Pruitt said. “The Waldensians were a pre-Reformation reformed body going back to the 12th century. They translated scripture into their own language. They were fierce believers in the priesthood of all believers. They were excommunicated in the 12th century by the Pope, then they moved to the Cottian Alps between France and Italy, where they resided for many years and were under fierce persecution.

“The first act is about the persecution of the Waldenses under Louis XIV of France and Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, and the return to their valleys from 1680-90. The second act is all about how these people, once they were granted some freedom, (found) the valleys became overpopulated, and they were forced with the hard choice of leaving their beloved valleys and finding another place to live freely. So they were granted this little land grant and moved in May of 1893 to Valdese and founded the town we now have.”

The performance will include traditional Waldensian hymns sung in French and choreographed court and folk dancing.

“I just fell in love with the story of the struggle of these people giving up everything they have and coming to the United States for opportunity,” Sebren said.

He thoroughly enjoyed working with the stellar local cast.

“It’s been a fantastic experience,” Sebren said. “I love working with actors. It’s my favorite part of directing. It’s been phenomenal being a part of everyone’s personal growth and also their growth within their character and finding new life within the piece.”

The Old Colony Players have reenacted the drama for the community for more than 50 years.

“The history is just fascinating,” Pruitt said. “Outdoor theater is an experience like no other.”

She said parents should consider that the show depicts some realistic-looking violence when determining whether to bring small children to see it.

“We do use live gunfire and simulated cannon fire,” Pruitt said. “There’s always a huge battle. There’s a massacre scene. There’s sword fights. For young children, you would need to explain that this is play, even though it’s a real story.”

She encouraged people to attend the event.

“This cast has done a tremendous job with a tremendous director who is very visionary,” Pruitt said. “It’s the history of where we are right here in Burke County. It’s an important history for us to know. We’re reliving some of the issues that happen in the story – religious tolerance and how we deal with each other with different belief systems, and also the whole idea of immigration. These people in the 1890s were welcomed with open arms to the United States of America, and look how wonderfully they built this town.”

Sebren said that even people who have seen the show in the past will still find it compelling.

“Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s different this year,” he said. “There’s been a few little rewrites here and there to clarify the story. There are a lot of new things that people hopefully will find interesting.”

Tickets may be purchased in advance by contacting 828-522-1150 or visiting www.oldcolonyplayers.com. Tickets also will be available at the theater the evening of each show.

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