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New play highlights history, honors Robert Morgan

"Sunbonnet and Straw Hat," an original play portraying Henderson County history and celebrating native-born writer and poet Robert Morgan, will debut at 7 p.m. Friday, July 26, in the courtroom of the Historic Courthouse on Main Street. Additional performances are scheduled Saturday, June 27, at 1 p.m. and at 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 28, at 2 p.m.

The play portrays life in Henderson County and honors Green River native and nationally acclaimed author Robert Morgan. Many who are involved in the production are local people who are reenacting events and emotions that shaped the lives of their own ancestors. As the cast members tell the stories and sing the songs of yesteryear, the audience is invited to journey back in time and gain a greater understanding of what it is that makes this such a special place.
Tom E. Orr compiled and wrote the play, assisted by Jeannie Gooch and Pam Alexander Warr.
"This play is about celebrating and honoring our past," Orr said. "But I think it is important to realize that we need to do that and then move on; it isn't about living in the past. In fact, what I find so wonderful about Henderson County is how we continue to evolve. Our cast of characters here is always changing as new people move in with their various talents and abilities — contributing, enhancing, sharing."
The new drama underscores Orr's assessment. It is performed by people with deep roots in the county—such as Fletch Griffith, Hilliard Staton, Mary Louise Barber, Gayle Stepp and many others — and some newcomers whose love of the area and contributions to it are so apparent, including Ruth Birge, Rosie O'Brien and Bill O'Connor.
Proceeds from the play will benefit the Henderson County Heritage Museum, which is housed in the Historic Courthouse; and the Henderson County Education History initiative, which researches and documents the history of early schools and the contributions of the pioneers in education here.
"Sunbonnet and Straw Hat" coincides with exhibits now on view at the museum that highlight the "Golden Age" of the county (1879-1929), Heritage Museum Board Chairman Carolyn Justus said. Exhibits include photographs of homes and buildings by early architects Richard Sharp Smith and Erle Stillwell; scale models of the Historic Courthouse, the Mountain Lily, an Indian village and a settler's cabin; an 1800s general store; and a beautifully rendered scale model of the Saluda Grade created by the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club.
Tickets are available at the Heritage Museum Gift Shop at the Historic Courthouse and at the Henderson County Visitors Center, 201 S. Main St. Tickets for the opening performance, which also includes a catered reception in honor of Robert Morgan, are $50; all other performances are $20. For more information, call the museum at 828-694-1619 or visit http://www.hendersoncountymuseum.com.