Carden play premiers in Highlands Oct. 1-3

The Martin Lipscomb Performing Arts Center and the Highlands Cashiers Players will present the world premier of Gary Carden’s newest play, “Signs and Wonders,” on Oct. 1, 2 and 3. 

This Small Stages production will also include another of Carden’s plays, “The Bright Forever.” 

Signs and Wonders is a story about Shelby Jean and a young evangelical preacher in rural Georgia. Highlands’ own Carla Gates will portray Shelby Jean. “The Bright Forever” is a true story of Fanny Crosby. This blind woman wrote 8,000 hymns, including “Blessed Assurance.” Fanny will be played by area favorite Shirley Williams.

The two theatrical pieces present a contrasting view on how religion affects people’s lives and are directed by Ronnie Spilton.

Gary Carden, a Sylva native, has been described as a storyteller with the “ability to blend humor with poignancy, a blend that allows him to bring to the reader the great themes of human existence — love, death, bravery, fear, desire, success, failure — without having to beat the reader over the head with these themes” by The Smoky Mountain News. 

Carden is also known as a folklorist and a storyteller. He was raised by his grandparents in Jackson County in a house filled with the past. He listened to Grady Cole and Renfro Valley on the radio while his grandfather tuned musical instruments with a tuning fork and sang hymns from a shape-note songbook. 

Carden graduated from Western Carolina University and taught literature and drama for 15 years, worked for the Cherokee Indians for 15 years and has spent the last 15 years as a lecturer and storyteller. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from Western Carolina University in August 2008.

Other Carden plays and stories include “The Raindrop Waltz,” “The Tannery Whistle,” and “The Prince of Dark Corners.” 

The world premier of “Signs and Wonders” and “The Bright Forever” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 1-2 and at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 3. For tickets call 828.526.9047.

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