WJHL.com - Trail of the Lonesome Pine outdoor drama celebrates 50 years

Trail of the Lonesome Pine outdoor drama celebrates 50 years

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BIG STONE GAP, VA (WJHL) -

In this edition of Cable Country, I'm in the audience to watch Virginia's official outdoor drama, now celebrating its' 50th year.

It's been a long trail..The Trail of the Lonesome Pine outdoor drama..

"It's the longest running one ever in the Commonwealth of Virginia", said Executive Producer Barbara Polly. "It's the fifth longest running in the United States and there are over a hundred outdoor dramas in the United States. We are the state's official outdoor drama"

A drama based on the novel written in 1908 by former Big Stone Gap resident John Fox, Jr..

"One of the best selling novels of all time", Polly said. "There have been only two books before, paperback books, that have outsold Trail of the Lonesome Pine, one is the bible the other is Gone With the Wind. It has a wonderful rich history behind the story but the story is also about how the discovery of coal in the mountains of southwestern Virginia affected the people who live here and how their lives changed as a result of this discovery. It's a love story, too which is nice"

The lead character, Jack Hale..

"Kind, a little sarcastic", Actor Brock Cooley laughed.

Is a mining engineer prospecting for coal, and is captivated by the female heroine, June Tolliver..

"June is just a really fascinating character", said Savannah Arwood, who plays the role of June. "It's just really fun to go through the journey with her"

Jack helps June get an education..

"He really gets her career going you know he got her out of the town and into bigger things", Cooley adds.

And along the journey, Jack falls in love with June..

"It's really a wonderful story", Polly said. 

The drama utilizes mostly regional actors who are unpaid volunteers..

"It's a very unique genre", Arwood said. "It allows to break what we call the fourth wall and really include the audience"

Interesting that the story line of this play is grounded in coal because coal built Big Stone Gap and now it's this drama that's helping to keep the town on the map..

"I grew up with it I knew not what a summer was like without it", said veteran stage Actor Jack McClanahan, who plays the role of "Devil" Judd Tolliver.

"It's a wonderful place to grow up and it's very culturally oriented", Polly said. "Oriented toward the arts and reading and books and literary things of course, John Fox, Jr. had something to do with that, too"

"To me the lasting legacy of it is the young people who have developed a sense of confidence and self assuredness that in many ways have carried them through life", McClanahan said. "It is such a grass roots community effort that it exemplifies the spirit of Big Stone"

 

The spirited drama continues with performances every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings through August..

"It's a wonderful outing for the evening", Polly said. "I mean it's just two hours in the outdoors. I just hope everybody will take an opportunity to come visit us, you won't be sorry"

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