Ferrum NewsHeidi News Release

Blue Ridge Adaptation of “Heidi” Closes Season at Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre


Blue Ridge Adaptation of “Heidi” Closes Season at Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre

Classic novel transported to Virginia in new musical for family audiences


Ferrum, Va. (July 29, 2011) When a plucky orphan girl is left abruptly with a reclusive grandfather in a mountain cabin, she quickly wins the affections of the gruff old man, the goat herder Peter, their goats and Peter’s old Granny. Then a heartless aunt drags her away again to live with a rich girl confined to a wheelchair in a mansion, where city life and severe homesickness cause both comical and heart-rending complications.

 Readers around the world associate this story, from Johanna Spyri’s classic novel “Heidi,” with Switzerland’s spectacular mountain landscapes. This summer Heidi moves to a Virginia mountaintop, as the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre closes its 2011 season August 2-6 with an innovative new adaptation by playwright R. Rex Stephenson and music director Emily Rose Tucker.

 While Stephenson has adapted many classic novels in the past, this is the first one he has transported to a different part of the world. But with its love of the mountains, stark contrast between rural and city life, and conflicts over interfering outsiders, family relationships, and the importance of education and religion, Spyri’s story fits naturally into an Appalachian setting.

 Tucker and Stephenson use Appalachian arrangements of American children’s songs and spirituals along with their own new songs to enhance the story’s blend of lively and sentimental themes. Stephenson adds an intriguing twist to the plot by linking Heidi’s lack of freedom and unhappiness in the city with the memories of former slaves in post-Civil-War Virginia.

 The cast features Rachel K. Blankenship as Heidi, Emily Rose Tucker, Mike Trochim, Ruth Trochim, Jody D. Brown, and Kenneth C. Barron III.

 Other members of the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre company, who have been energetically acting, singing, and playing a variety of instruments all summer, are joined by local youth for this family show: Emily M. Anderson, Maggie Blankenship, Haley Bowling, Nolen-Lynn Boyd. Talmidge Boyd, Dave Carter, Berhan Grimes-Whited, Tyler Grimes-Whited, Jordana Faith Hicks, Lydia Ruth Hicks, Kelsey Narmour, Caitlin Narmour, and Nellie Elizabeth Philpott.

 Tyler Grimes-Whited (9), one of the youngest cast members, commented that at the audition, "We just played and sang some songs, and it was FUN!" He and the others are learning in rehearsals that performing in professional theatre requires hard work and concentration, too.

 The production is underwritten by the Nellie McCaslin Endowment. McCaslin, a distinguished scholar and professor of educational theatre, called Stephenson’s summer plays for families “a unique and highly successful example of intergenerational theatre,” praising the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre for productions in which local and professional actors, young interns, teenagers and children work together. “Heidi” has a strong focus on relationships between children and adults.

Stephenson, who has three daughters and two grandchildren, says he got to like Heidi more the more he read the book, noting that “she is bright and caring and lives out her own goodness; her grandfather needs her and wants to keep the purity in her that he loves when he sees that she loves everything on the mountain instead of asking for something different.” Stephenson observed that the story “really moved to Appalachia a lot easier than I thought it would originally, without distorting the character. Children are children, whether they are in Virginia or Switzerland. They all have the same loves and hopes and desires.”

 Local libraries and the Ferrum College Bookstore are collaborating with the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre in a book promotion that gives children who read the novel “Heidi” a voucher for one free ticket to the play. For details see /Articles/blue_ridge_dinner_theatre_offers_free_tickets_to_kids_who_read.html.

 “Heidi” previews at the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre on August 2 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees follow on August 3 and 4 at 1:15 p.m., with evening performances on August 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. A Saturday Seminar on August 6 at 6 p.m. provides an opportunity for conversation about the play.

The Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre is located on the campus of Ferrum College.  A three-course buffet precedes the performances on August 3, 4 and 6. Actors in the company serve the meal, which is suitable for both adults and children.

Call 540-365-4335 or visit the web site www.blueridgedinnertheatre.com for reservations.