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Smoke on the Mountain celebrates 18th season
The Georgia Mountain Players will perform ‘Smoke on the Mountain’ this weekend at the Georgia Mountains Center Theatre in Gainesville. - photo by Tom Reed

"Smoke on the Mountain"
When:8 p.m. Aug. 12-14, 19-20 and 26-27; 2:30 p.m. Aug. 15, 21-22 and 28-29,
Where: Georgia Mountains Center Theatre, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville.
Cost: $16 adults, $12 seniors age 60 and older, students and children.
More info: 770-534-8420.

The Georgia Mountain Players have once again come together for the performance of ‘Smoke on the Mountain.’

One of the region’s staple theatrical events, ‘Smoke’ has been put on by the Players for 17 years. This year marks the 18th anniversary and Mike Martin, managing/artistic director of the theater group, couldn’t be more excited.

"We started with 4 performances, and over the years we’ve had to add and add and now we perform ‘Smoke’ 12 times per year — always to sell-out audiences," said Martin.

"People come from all over Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, North and South Carolina year after year, some say that they plan their vacations around Smoke. In 2002, we took this show to Nova Scotia and performed it in some small churches —one didn’t even have electricity and was lit by gas lamps— and the Canadians loved it as much as Southerners."

For those who may not be familiar with the show, here is a brief synopsis:

It takes place in 1938 in a small church in North Carolina, where they have a new preacher and he has invited the "Singing Sanders" (a gospel singing family who have been off the gospel circuit for several years) to come to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on a Saturday night for a night of "singin’ and witnessin.’

The matriarchs of the church (the old Biddy sisters) who generally run the church, don’t like change of any kind, instruments in the church or particularly the new preacher. They have come out only because it’s their church and their pews.

Through the course of about thirty old gospel songs and hymns and through the stories witnessed by the Sanders family, the hearts of the Biddies (and the audience ) are warmed.

"The whole show is true to the life of many, many small churches everywhere (though sometimes a little exaggerated) and is basically about redemption and understanding of one another. Even though it’s 1938 this show is ageless and timeless," said Martin.

"This is our 18th year to produce this hilarious play. There are six of us from the original cast, Linda Smith, Jene Robocker, Peggy Strickland, Stan Lee, Dianne and myself, and we agree that we have become these characters."

Martin says in many ways, Smoke on the Mountain has taken on a life of its own.

"Many (especially seniors) tell us that they grew up in a church just like Mount Pleasant, it seems to be universal."