“She Stoops to Conquer” was performed at Liberty University.
LYNCHBURG, Va. - Neal Brasher, who teaches accents and dialects as assistant professor of Theatrical Arts at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, wanted to show the similarities between English and classic Southern U.S. accents. He went big and took his class to the stage, setting the 18th century English comedy “She Stoops to Conquer” in Reconstruction-era Virginia, ca. 1870.
For a musical soundtrack that would help make the transformed setting as authentic as possible, he reached out to former Samford University classmate and Cullman County resident William Craig “Dr. Bill” Mann for music popular during that era. Mann, a historical musician and former resident music historian for the Landmarks Foundation in Montgomery, supplied him with recordings of several period tunes played on either the Appalachian dulcimer or 5-string minstrel banjo (Both instruments had strong Virginia connections in the 19th century). Selections used in the production included “Jordan Is a Hard Road to Travel” (used as the main show theme), “Rose of Alabama,” “Natchez Under the Hill” and “Arkansas Traveler.”
The show ran for eight performances between March 24 and April 2 at Liberty’s Tower Theatre.
After the show wrapped, Brasher commented on the music, “Rarely does any theatrical design element more appropriately set the tone of a production than does the music. The rustic setting of ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ was authenticated and enhanced by the woody tones of the banjo and dulcimer.”
After attending a performance, Dr. David Hahn, chairman of Liberty’s Department of Commercial Music, wrote this note of review: “The use of music by Dr. W. Craig Mann on period instruments brought an authenticity to ‘She Stoops to Conquer.’ Hearing music from the period depicted played on period instruments added to the costuming and sets in setting the delightful character of the play.”
“Dr. Bill” is probably best known to Cullman area residents (especially kids) for his banjo and dulcimer performances at the Cullman County Museum during Oktoberfest. He also teaches dulcimer classes at the Donald Green Senior Center.
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