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Appalachian tale blends past, present
The Georgia Mountain Players present "Foxfire" at the Georgia Mountains Center through April 26. - photo by Tom Reed

At its center, it's a love story.

Love for music. Love for the mountains. Love for stories. And love for each other.

It's "Foxfire," presented this week by the Georgia Mountain Players, a story of development and progress mixing into the old way of life in the mountains of Northeast Georgia. Inspired by the stories collected by students at the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, the play tells the story of a woman trying to stay a part of the past, but, through her son and his music career, trying to stay connected to the future, too.

"So what you see is really a conflict in an older way of life," said director Peggy Strickland, a founding member of the Georgia Mountain Players. "The mountain folk - with the folk remedies, planting by ‘The Old Farmer's Almanac' - and development coming into the community."

Banks County resident David McNeill White is the son who comes back home for a concert at the Georgia Mountain Fair in Hiawassee. While White is a musician in his own right - he plays the fiddle - he said this role did have its challenges.

"I actually had to learn to play the guitar for the show," White said. "I play the fiddle, but I don't really play the guitar. So I had to learn how to play it."

White's guitar lessons are just part of an overall learning process the Mountain Players has experienced in its 16 years, Strickland said, and this play is a chance for the now-mature group to stretch its wings.

"I really felt, as a director, I felt like we grew into this play," Strickland said. The group is known by its fans for doing "silly" comedies, but "Steel Magnolias" last year threw a bit of drama into the mix.

"I don't think we would have done the job with it 16 years ago that we are doing now."

The central characters, Annie and Hector, are played by real-life husband and wife Diane and Mike Martin. And this adds to the characters as well, Strickland said.

Diane Martin said this is one of the few opportunities she's had to play opposite her husband in the role.

"It's actually wonderful, because this is a love story," Martin said. "And since Mike and I are a love story, it's very wonderful. Very wonderful."

Strickland admitted she might have had the couple in mind when choosing to do the play. But overall, it's a story with roots as old as the Appalachian hills.

"It's humorous, it's heartfelt, it deals with conflict that so many families go through," she said. "It really speaks to the roots of the people of North Georgia."