By ALLEN RAU
Returning for its fifth season, the original, research-based play “Spot on the Hill” tells the stories of the lives of the cemetery’s “inhabitants.”
Performances begin in October at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery. The play is a fundraiser for the Heritage Alliance to help maintain and restore damaged graves stones in the aging cemetery.
“The great thing about ‘Spot on the Hill’ is that there’s a lot of graves up there,” Heritage Alliance Executive Director Deborah Montanti said. “So we have a lot of stories to tell. If you’ve seen it once, you haven’t seen it this year. There’s always new stories coming up.”
According to the press release for the event, some of the new stories in this year’s play “include William Elbert Munsey, the namesake of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Jeremiah Edwards, founder of the Zion Hill School in Jonesborough, and Laura Brunner Dosser, who was well known and respected for her eye for fashion.”
Now in the fifth year, the event began as a means to help with the maintenance of the cemetery.
“We partnered with the town about six years ago to bring the Old Jonesborough Cemetery back to life, ironically,” Montanti said. “The care and maintenance of the cemetery had been neglected for awhile and there was no malfeasance on anybody’s part. It’s just that there was a question as to who actually owned the cemetery. The town basically took on the maintenance when it looked like that was going to be the only way to get the weeds down.
“So the Heritage Alliance got involved at that point to assist in that process. We recovered numerous graves that had been overgrown and were back in the woods. So we were looking for a funding stream to help us. We just happened to have, through the graces, an exceptional playwright on our staff.”
Montanti added that the idea that emerged was: “Real Stories, Real People, Real Tombstones”.
The first four years of the play have been so successful that the cemetery is now back to the original boundaries and 100 stones have been restored.
Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Special Projects Coordinator for the Heritage Alliance, is the play’s writer and director, and usually performs, as well.
“I want to pick a mix of stories for men, stories for women, and when I can, if I have younger actors available, I like to share stories from children,” Mason said. “Unfortunately, it’s a reality of life that many children would die young in that time period … there’s a lot of truth to the stories. I always use primary sources. Newspapers, census records, diaries, family histories, wills. I try to find something document based for every person.”
Performances at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery will be on Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 2:30 p.m.
The Oct. 20 show at 2:30 p.m. will show indoors at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.
Audience members should arrive 15 minutes prior to showtime and are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The performance will move to the Visitors Center in the event of inclement weather.
Tickets are available at the Jonesborough Visitors Center (423) 753-1010 and online at www.jonesboroughtn.org/tickets. Cost is $8.