Cotton Hall Bursting at the Seams with Christmas Cheer

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Holly Jolly May-Haw Return land at Cotton Hall

Santa must’ve left double the Christmas spirit when he visited Cotton Hall last year, because this year the theater is serving up two can’t-miss Christmas plays. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever kicks off December with a bang, followed by fan-favorite A Holly Jolly May-Haw Christmas. 

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the story of the infamous Herdman family. The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world– so when they crash Sunday school and demand parts in the Christmas pageant, the whole town panics. It’s up to Grace and the kids to push through and help their community see the Christmas story and the Herdman kids through new eyes in this touching holiday classic. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever will be performed: 

Friday, December 4 at 7:30pm 
Saturday, December 5 at 12:00pm (Nearly SOLD OUT)
Saturday, December 5 at 2:00pm (SOLD OUT)
Saturday, December 5 at 6:00pm
Sunday, December 6 at 2:00pm (Nearly SOLD OUT)
Sunday, December 6 at 6:00pm 

The Saturday, December the 5th performance will let out just in time for the annual Christmas Parade of Lights, so plan to spend your day in Colquitt and cap it off with a hot cocoa from our concession stand!

A Holly Jolly May-Haw Christmas opens the following week, and this year, the play will lovingly poke fun at the made-for-tv Christmas movies we love to hate and hate to love. Big city baker Kristin moves back to her small town to close up shop at the gingerbread bakery she inherited from her grandmother, but the town and hunky baker working there aren’t so keen to see it go. Filled with sugar, spice, and everything nice, A Holly Jolly May-Haw Christmas will be a heaping spoonful of laughter to wash away the mess of 2020. It will be performed: 

Friday, December 11 at 7:30pm
Saturday, December 12 at 2:00pm
Saturday, December 12 at 2:00pm
Saturday, December 12 at 6:00pm

Tickets to both shows are just $20 each and will sell out before you know it! Tickets for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Holly Jolly May-Haw Christmas are not being sold online, so give the Box Office a call today at 1-229-758-5450 or email info@swampgravy.com. 

Swamp Gravy: Fourth and Long Kicks Off October 5th!

Fourth and Long Cover Photo 2There’s a certain feeling in the air this time of year: a mix of excitement, anticipation, pride, and determination. You can feel it start as soon as school starts back, and build with each passing day until finally, it’s time: kick-off!

Football is a beloved pastime deeply rooted in the cultural foundation of communities all across the South, and ours is no exception. It’s more than just a sport, it’s an opportunity to create bonds that will last a lifetime, and instills pride in self, hard work, team, and community.

There is magic that happens under the “Friday night lights,” and this season of Swamp Gravy seeks to capture some of that magic as they kick off their 26thseason this October with a brand new production, Swamp Gravy: Fourth and Long.This season, you’ll meet a young man struggling to find his own place in the shadow of his father’s legacy; parents who refuse to accept a narrow-minded view of their son’s potential; a girl who would do anything to march with the band; a team who will fight to the very last second for the opportunity at the state championship; and more characters on and off the field who prove it’s not the final score but how you play the game that shows who you really are.

Rehearsals for the 87 members of the cast have been going strong since mid-August, but preparations began much earlier in the summer with the support of many individuals, schools, storytellers, and songwriters. For playwright and director Will Murdock, this season has resonated deeply. “I’m so thrilled for people to see what we’ve been working on. My dad’s a football coach, so it’s like these two parts of my life have suddenly collided, and to see the excitement in the cast is just amazing,” Murdock says. “We’ve had so much help from the schools and the community because they want to help us represent this part of our story – from Miller County giving us uniforms to SGA loaning us trophies, and individuals digging out their old high school jerseys, it’s clear that football means a lot to people and we’re working hard to do it justice.”

Swamp Gravy: Fourth and Long runs October 5 – 27th, with showings Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2:00 & 6:00. Tickets for all shows may be purchased online at www.swampgravy.com, or by calling 229-758-5450. Tickets are $22 apiece, and group rates are available. Please call to book a group!

What is it about Swamp Gravy?

Swamp Gravy is more than just a play – especially for those who participate as part of the cast.

The Swamp Gravy Mission Statement is “To involve as many people as possible in a theatrical experience that EMPOWERS individuals, BONDS the community and STRENGTHENS the local economy while crossing the boundaries of race, social class, age, and gender,” and over the 26 years since Swamp Gravy began, hundreds of talented volunteers have participated in that mission. Along the way, children have grown up on the stage in Cotton Hall, life long friendships have been built, love stories have been written, and, well, life has happened.

“Even if you walk in to auditions a total stranger, you will have made a couple–well, actually quite a few–friends before you walk out the doors of Cotton Hall,” says cast member Crystal Crozier, who joined Swamp Gravy with her daughters in 2017. “That’s just how it is. Everyone is so warm and welcoming. The friendships formed and memories made during Swamp Gravy will last much longer than the season; they will last a lifetime.”

Cast member Jessica Reichard agrees. Her involvement in Cotton Hall first began when her kids auditioned for the 2013 CMAC Youth Production, Honk!, and before long she and her husband Aaron joined them on stage. “Swamp Gravy is a true gift to Southwest Georgia. It is special and unlike anything I’ve ever been part of before. The great thing is that all are welcome and truly embraced as part of the family the moment you walk through the doors,” she says. “Everyone supports each other and encourages each other. It’s amazing that 100 people can be in a room together and truly care for one another the way we do.”

CMAC Artistic Director Will Murdock, who wrote Swamp Gravy: Fourth and Long as well as other recent editions of the production, is particularly excited about this year’s script, which he will also direct. “[This is] a play that has sat in some corner of my brain for years and years. It explores the community built each Friday at small town football field,” Murdock says. “Hundreds of cast members have taken to this stage–and they all had one thing in common–they were willing to pick up the ball and run with it. You don’t have to be a professional actor to be a part. You don’t have to be an athlete or dancer. You don’t need to do cartwheels or sing an aria. You just have to be willing to play around with us.”

Auditions for Swamp Gravy: Fourth and Long continue this evening at Cotton Hall, from 5:30-8PM, and are open to men, women, and children of all ages. “The story is inhabited by players, coaches, cheerleaders, band members, mamas, daddies, and more,” continues Murdock. “Now’s your chance. If you know someone nearby who might be interested, send them our way. If you know someone who hasn’t quite found their place, send them our way. If you know someone who just loves people, send them our way. If you know someone who has a spark in their eyes, but is afraid to step on stage, send them our way.” 

“Experience it for yourself,” chimes in Reichard. “We can’t wait to welcome you in!”

Click here for more information about auditions for Swamp Gravy: Fourth and Long.

 

Real Life and a Little Spice

True Stories Take the Stage in Colquitt, GA

It’s right there in the first song—if you’re listening: “We’ll put ‘em all together and spice ‘em all up, and we’ll have a storytelling time.”

That’s been Swamp Gravy’s formula for 25 years, but it’s easy for audiences and cast members alike to forget that each story told in Swamp Gravy is based on a true story from the community. The 2017-2018 edition of Swamp Gravy, Listen Here, centers on the story of Evelyn, a woman who, after nearly fifty years of being the oldest of two siblings, finds out that she has a full-blooded older brother that she never knew about. And the two women who play Evelyn? Well… they are both a part of the story that’s still unfolding.

MICHELLE REHEARSAL.JPG
Storyteller Michelle Still rehearses a scene from Swamp Gravy: Listen Here with fellow Swamper, Dylan Clenney. Photo by Brook Phillips.

When Michelle Still sat down with Swamp Gravy co-playwright, Will Murdock, she didn’t know that her story would end up becoming the spine of the 25th anniversary play. She told him the story as she had several times before—how she’d found out she had a secret brother, how she’d slowly gotten to know him through emails and phone calls and Facebook stalking, and how she’d ended up feeling when she finally met the man. Immediately Murdock knew that her story was what the script was looking for.

And while the emails became letters, and the Facebook stalking was edited away, what remains on the stage is the essential essence of that story as it was told—even more so, because one of the two women playing the role of “Evelyn” is Still herself. Still is no stranger to Cotton Hall having previously taken on roles in Footloose and the Sound of Music, but this role required something else of her—to play herself. When asked about the challenges of taking on that role onstage, she said, “During rehearsals, there was initially a heaviness about playing Evelyn. I realized it was actually Michelle, me, who held that heaviness. As I worked through scenes, evening after evening during rehearsals, I found myself being able to release many of the emotions I’d been unknowingly hanging onto. So sharing my story, telling it as part of Listen Here, has been very healing for me. I found it very cathartic.”

Evelyn, like all roles in Swamp Gravy, is double cast with two actresses who rotate performances throughout the run. Sharing the role with Michelle is Early County Elementary School teacher, Nan Stuart. But Stuart had heard this story long before reading the script.

In October of 2016, just after meeting her new brother, Still decided it was time to begin sharing their story. She invited him to see her and her son perform in Swamp Gravy: Home, and that’s when she let the other cast members know why she was feeling a little extra nervous that day. Stuart recalls that day as one she won’t soon forget. She said, “I felt overwhelmed and a little shocked at first.  I mean, her story is amazing and it takes a while to wrap your head around it. I’m still amazed even now!  Then I felt so happy for her and her family because it’s exciting to know that he was able to find them and start trying to build a relationship with them after all these years.”

Reunited
Nan Stuart, Aaron Reichard, and Todd Thornton play siblings reunited in Swamp Gravy: Listen Here, while Hal Still looks on, playing himself

The story stuck with Stuart—so much so that it gave her an idea. As Still tells it: “A few days later, Nan approached me and handed me a journal. She explained, “I’ve thought so much about your story. And I know that right now, it seems impossible that you could ever forget anything… but it can happen, so I wanted you to have this journal—to maybe write your story down now, while it’s fresh, and you can recall all the details.”

Stuart went on to offer other ideas for the journal if Still didn’t want to document her story—chief among them as a great spot for grocery lists—but journal Still did: “It moved me to tears, that she had considered me so much. I wrote the date I received it on inside cover, and that it had been given to me by a very special friend named Nan Stuart. Way back then, neither of us had a CLUE of what was to come—that Nan would be an integral part of sharing my story!”

Still’s husband Hal also gets to share the stage with her and loves seeing how the story connects with so many people. He said, “The craziest part about the whole thing is the way people have opened up about their own stories. Just this past Saturday, a couple approached me and Michelle and told us their similar story. For 45 minutes, we talked. Total strangers—yet they shared their experiences with us. I guess telling a story is very humanizing to others.”

And while onstage Evelyn’s story comes to a close, the story is still unfolding for the Still family. Still says of the journal gifted to her by the other Evelyn, “I still have it. I will keep this journal forever. I write updates in it when new parts of my family’s story are born.”

Comedy for a Cause at Cotton Hall with the Dirt Road Sports (Press Release)

 

Comedy for a Cause at Cotton Hall with the Dirt Road Sports

The Colquitt Miller Arts Council Kicks Off Mural Fundraising Drive With Comedy Dinner Theater

Colquitt, Georgia: The Colquitt Miller Arts Council welcomes the Dirt Road Sports to Cotton Hall on September 23rd, 2017, in the kick-off event of their fundraising drive benefitting the Millennium Mural Project. The Southern-fried comedy trio will begin at 6PM on September 23rd, with dinner served during the performance. All proceeds from the event will go towards the repair and restoration of the “Nuthin’ But A Will” mural, which was completed in 2005 as a tribute to Colquitt’s volunteer fire department, and has since suffered storm damage. Tickets for the event are $25, and include meal and entertainment. Tickets are available by calling the Arts Council’s Box Office at 229-758-5450.

“Our community takes great pride in our volunteer fire department, and in those individuals who serve within it,” says Colquitt Miller Arts Council Artistic Director Kate Cook. “Because of that, it’s very important to us that ‘Nuthin’ But A Will’ be returned to the beautiful tribute it was originally created to be.” A partnership with the Dirt Road Sports, a Colquitt-based comedy trio which features Colquitt/Miller County Fire Chief Craig Tully, Colquitt City Manager Cory Thomas, and local auctioneer and real estate agent Billy Kimbrel, provided a perfect opportunity to kick off fundraising efforts for the restoration. “We have a strong bond with the Dirt Road Sports through a shared history and our commitment to our community,” continues Cook. “We’re excited to welcome them back to Cotton Hall for this special event.”

“Nuthin’ But A Will” was the 11th mural completed as part of the Colquitt Miller Arts Council’s Millennium Mural Project, which began in 1999 with a grant from the National Endowment for The Arts. It was created by muralist Cheryl Hardin and depicts true stories of the Colquitt Miller County Volunteer Fire Department in Colquitt, Georgia.

About the Colquitt Miller Arts Council: CMAC was founded in 1989 to support the arts in Miller County, Georgia. CMAC supports four main projects: Cotton Hall Theater, which produces Swamp Gravy and other plays throughout the year, New Life Learning Center, an arts-based education facility for children, Market On The Square, a small business incubator, and the Millennium Mural Project. With its flagship project, Georgia’s Official Folk Life Play Swamp Gravy, CMAC seeks to preserve and celebrate the true stories of Miller County and Southwest Georgia through a theatrical experience that empowers individuals, bonds the community, and strengthens the local economy while crossing the boundaries of race, social class, age, and gender. More information about CMAC and Swamp Gravy can be found at http://www.swampgravy.com or by calling 229-758-5450.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 08/22/17

Kate Willis Cook

Colquitt Miller Arts Council

229-758-5450

Dirt Road Sports Poster FINAL

Announcing our 2017 Spring Musical, FOOTLOOSE!

footloose

April 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 2017

Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2:00 and 6:00, Sundays at 2:00

Tickets go on sale December 5, 2016, at MIDNIGHT!

One of the most explosive movie musicals in recent memory bursts onto the live stage with exhilarating results. When Ren and his mother move from Chicago to a small farming town, Ren is prepared for the inevitable adjustment period at his new high school. What he isn’t prepared for are the rigorous local edicts, including a ban on dancing instituted by the local preacher, determined to exercise the control over the town’s youth that he cannot command in his own home. When the reverend’s rebellious daughter sets her sights on Ren, her roughneck boyfriend tries to sabotage Ren’s reputation, with many of the locals eager to believe the worst about the new kid. The heartfelt story that emerges is of a father longing for the son he lost and of a young man aching for the father who walked out on him. To the rockin’ rhythm of its Oscar and Tony-nominated top 40 score (the soundtrack album reached number one on the Billboard charts and has sold over 15 million copies!) and augmented with dynamic new songs for the stage musical, FOOTLOOSE celebrates the wisdom of listening to young people, guiding them with a warm heart and an open mind.

This program is supported in part by the Georgia Council for the Arts through the appropriations of funds from the Georgia General Assembly. GCA is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Group Tickets On Sale Now For Swamp Gravy

July is a very exciting time for us here at the Colquitt Miller Arts Council, because we are in the final stages of preparing for our brand new season of Swamp Gravy. This season, we are very proud to present Swamp Gravy: Home, a brand new production written by Will Murdock and directed by Katherine A. Willis. The stories in Home remind us that our home is more than just a place: a young woman spends her childhood being shifted from place to place, longing for a home she discovers wasn’t as far away as she always thought; as memories begin to fade and become confused, a couple finds home in the commitment they make to one another; the lessons a woman learns from her artist father inspire the way she views the world; a new girlfriend meets her boyfriend’s family for the first time, and learns keeping house means different things to different people; hilarity ensues when a directionally challenged young man takes a new job. These are just a few of the stories in this edition of Swamp Gravy, which will bring tears to your eyes, laughter from your belly, and remind you of Home.

We are now taking group reservations for both the October 2016 and the March 2017 runs of Swamp Gravy: Home. Making a group reservation now gives you the comfort of knowing that you have the seats you need reserved, with the flexibility of being able to generate interest and collect money from your group members before you pay.

This fall, performances of Swamp Gravy: Home are September 30th, October 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, & 22. In March, performances are March 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, & 25. Showings are Fridays at 7:30, and Saturdays at 2:00 and 5:30. All times are Eastern.

Tips and reminders as you make your reservations:

  • The earlier you make your reservation, the better your seats will be!
  • Let us know when you make your reservation if you need handicap accessible seating. We have limited accessible seating, and can’t often make space in the section day of. If your group member can climb one or two stairs, or even a few with help, we can get them seated in our regular seating.
  • You can make any changes you need to for your order before your payment is made. Please remember that if your group falls below 20 members, ticket price goes up to $22, and you will no longer be eligible for a complimentary ticket. (Group reservations receive 1 complimentary ticket for every 20 group members). After payment is made, you can add tickets to your order, but we do have a no refund policy on cancelled tickets.
  • Ticket payments are due in full 6 weeks before your selected performance, and we suggest having your group members turn in their money by the Sunday before your due date. Due dates are as follows:
    1. Sept 30/Oct 1 performances – payment due August 19th
    2. October 7/8 performances – payment due August 26th
    3. October 14/15 performances – payment due September 2nd
    4. October 21/22 performances – payment due September 9th.
    5. March 3rd/4th 2017 Performances – payment due January 20, 2017
    6. March 10/11 performances – Payment due January 27th, 2017
    7. March 17/18 performances – payment due February 3rd, 2017
    8. March 24/25 performances – payment due February 10th, 2017
  • Ticket orders that have not been confirmed and paid by their due date are subject to cancellation, unless special arrangements have been made.
  • There’s more to do in Colquitt than just the show! Schedule a mural tour for $5 per person (we can either put a tour guide on your bus, take you on a walking tour, or we have a handicap accessible tram that seats 12-14 adults comfortably.) Mural Tours last about an hour. Make plans to eat at one of our local restaurants, like the Tarrer Inn (229-758-2888) or Moby Dick (229-758-8141). Make sure you schedule time to visit our shops on the square, too!

 

Our office number is 229-758-5450. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions! Our office is typically open Monday-Friday from 9AM – 5PM, unless show needs have us elsewhere. If you don’t get us immediately, don’t forget to leave a message! We may be on the other line, or in another part of the building.

 

We can’t wait to see you in Colquitt this season! We’ve got other events going on as well, such as our popular Christmas production, May-Haw Christmas (tickets for which are also on sale now). Make sure you visit swampgravy.com often, sign up for our email list, and follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/SwampGravy) to stay up to date on all upcoming events.