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Sautees stories come to life
Headwaters injects creative license into residents tales
Gainesville resident Damon Frost plays "the joke teller" in "Headwaters," on stage through Sunday at the Sautee Nachoochee Center.


Headwaters" director Jerry Stropnicky talks about highlights of the play performed this weekend at the Sautee Nacochee Center.

‘Headwaters: Birth, Death and Places In-Between'

What: A community story performance
Where: Sautee Nacoochee Center, 283 Ga. 255 N, Sautee
When: 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
How much: $13 for SNCA members, $18 nonmembers, $5 kids ages 6-17, children age 5 and younger free
More info: 706-878-3300

"Headwaters: Birth, Death and Places In-Between:" Learn more about "Headwaters" and see video from rehearsals.

"Headwaters: Birth, Death and Places In-Between," a play now showing at the Sautee Nacochee Center, tells the stories of families and friends, in-laws and outlaws and trials and triumphs.

The performance is a collection of old stories from mountain natives mixed with a little creativity and Appalachian charm.

"They've taken stories of residents from White, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens (counties)," said Terri Edgar, arts program director at the Sautee Nacochee Center.

The overall theme, Edgar said, is family.

"We have taken oral stories from the residents, and then we give them to the playwrights. You have to understand that when we give them to the playwrights, now they are up for exaggeration or the creative dramatics, but they are based on true stories. It's not oral history; we have creative license."

"Headwaters" features local performers, music and puppets to paint a vibrant picture of the Northeast Georgia mountains.

"One of the fun things and different things of this play is that we have some puppets," Edgar said. "We have shadow puppets and a really large horse puppet that walks on the bar in purgatory."

"Headwaters" has four performances left - today through Sunday - and director Jerry Stropnicky said local folks shouldn't miss a chance to see the play.

"It's stories collected from that region, and it's performed by people from that region," he said. "The frames - that is to say set lights, costumes, these incredible puppets - are fully professional. It's a way of celebrating the place in a really beautiful way."

Stropnicky said the play was modeled after Swamp Gravy, a series of story plays. Sautee has some interesting stories to tell, too.

"I've got a bunch of experience doing these. I've directed Swamp Gravy, I've done one in Kentucky called ‘Higher Ground,' I'm doing one in Pennsylvania called ‘Flood Stories,'" he said. "So as part of my life I've made it my mission to help crack open stories and communities and figure out ways to help communities tell their tales. Every community has its own way of telling stories."

The play, which is an hour and 50 minutes with an intermission, was written by Joe Carson of Johnson City, Tenn., and Jerry Grillo of Sautee.

Stropnicky added that the writers did a great job adding emotions, humor and music to the play.

"There are a couple moments that really stand out because they surprise," he said. "We go to some other directions that are really fun musically. ‘Idumea,' it's an old hymn by Charles Wesley. It's sung in the show as an emotional, spiritual turning point. It's first lyric is ‘And are we born to die?' We sing it in a traditional Appalachian shape (note) singing and it literally lifts the room every night."