This weekend, I’m heading back to Winston-Salem for another showing of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus at the Hanesbrands Theatre. And while Winston isn’t too far down the road, it occurred to me that I don’t even have to leave Wilkes County to experience the theater.
Wilkes Playmakers is a non-profit community group that is dedicated to the cultural enhancement of Wilkes County through the art of theater. The Playmakers were first started back in 1990 by a group of locals who wanted to enrich Wilkes with the arts. Benton Hall, their home, was once an elementary school and is where most of the performances take place. The hall can sit 200 + people, so there’s plenty of room for folks wanting to take in a little culture.
The Playmakers put on many shows throughout the year, but one of their most popular shows is an outdoor drama called “Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend“. I’ve watched this performance before (it’s put on at the Forest Edge Amphitheater in Wilkesboro) and I absolutely loved it. The story of Tom Dooley is well-known and well-debated in this area, which is one reason why the play draws such a large crowd every June and July. The story revolves around Tom Dooley, Laura Foster & Ann Foster (the girls were cousins) and their love triangle back in the 1860′s, which resulted in the murder of Laura and the subsequent hanging of Tom Dooley for her murder. Many people believe that Ann Foster was the one who actually killed Laura, though. To read Dooley’s full story, click here.
Whippoorwill Academy and Village in Ferguson, NC is one great place to learn more about the Dooley story. Whippoorwill Village is a collection of historical buildings that have been restored by a local lady named Mrs. Edith Ferguson Carter. An old 1700′s smokehouse is home to a gallery, where much of the art tells the story of Tom Dooley. The village is closed January through March, but it will be open for visitors again in just a few weeks.
And if reading the story and seeing artwork about Tom Dooley isn’t enough, well, there’s a song you can listen to! It’s called “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley”, and was recorded by The Kingston Trio back in 1958.