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‘Spot on the Hill’ still raising the dead

When playwright Anne G’fellers Mason first presented “A Spot on the Hill” last year to a Jonesborough audience, she wasn’t sure about the reaction.
“We were hopeful,” Mason recalls. “We were hoping that people would like it and it would catch on.”
Now, one year later, following the final October performance of what is fast becoming a Jonesborough favorite, Mason and others at the Heritage Alliance for Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia are fairly convinced they have a hit on their hands.
“I think we were at 55 people Saturday night, and we had planned to cap it at 40,” Mason said. “People were just so excited about it, and the tickets kept selling.”
“A Spot on the Hill,” written by Mason and presented through the Heritage Alliance, takes audience members literally up onto the hill that holds the Jonesborough Cemetery. From there, they meet many of the town figures — from A.E. Jackson and Fire Chief Guy Sabin to Buffalo Soldier Alfred Ray and bride Adeline Deadrick.
“Every character is someone who is buried in this cemetery,” said Mason, who tried to capture each as clearly as possible, with actors portraying these town fixtures, back to share their story on “the spot on the hill.”
Capturing that story wasn’t always easy, Mason admits. Some town figures had a great deal of information available; others had little more than what was written on the stone.
But she used her expertise and experience with the Heritage Alliance to piece together the puzzles. And if this year’s sold-out performances are any indication, she was able to do it well — and do it for a good cause.
Money raised at these performances has been going to aid in cemetery restoration at the site.
“It’s been amazing,” Mason said. “We have Gordon Edward, and people have nicknamed him Graveyard Gordon because he can stretch the funds so well. He does it inexpensively, but he does it right.”
So far, she said, Edward has been able to piece together and preserve several stones, including those broken into four or five sections.
Such restoration is important, Mason said. “It helps complete Jonesborough’s story.”
Though “A Spot on the Hill” performances are complete for this year, Mason promises that the Heritage Alliance is determined to bring it back.
The piece is actually a portion of a full-length play she has written, and that has yet to be performed.
And the shorter version will be back next year to continue its role as storyteller and fundraiser, she said.