PITTSBORO -"Millworker," a play about the hard and poignant life of North Carolina textile mill workers in the 1920s and 1930s, won acclaim when it hit the stage in 2003.
Central Carolina Community College theater instructor Ellen Bland and Drew Lasater, a former student of Bland, created the play, which was directed by Bland. It featured a cast of CCCC students and community members and musicians. "Millworker" premiered at the historic Chatham Mills Center, a former textile plant.
It was intended as a one-night show, but rave reviews by theater critics brought requests for more, culminating in a dozen performances around the state. In 2005, it won the North Carolina Theatre Conference Community Theatre Award.
The play and the excitement generated by it can now be experienced again through the work of Linda Booker, who was a student at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies when "Millworker" was bringing audiences to its feet. Booker connected with the troupe and followed them around the state, chronicling the creation of the show and its impact on audiences.
Her work, "Millworker the Documentary," will be screened at the original site of the production, the Chatham Mills Center. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21. An admission donation of $5 is requested, with all proceeds benefiting ChathamArts (the Chatham County Arts Council) and the "Anytown NC" project. The screening is hosted by the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, Chatham Mills Center and ChathamArts.
"Millworker" is based on a Southern oral history book, "Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill Worker." The book grew out of an oral history project on mill workers carried out by students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1988. Bland and Lasater took that work and crafted it into great theater. Music and songs, most of them written by textile mill workers, are an integral part of the show.
"We did it for a one-night gig and it took off," Bland said of the show's unexpected popularity. "I'm delighted it seemed to integrate so many communities as a tribute to the textile community. I love the theater you take to the people and it's about their lives and they can relate to it - that was thrilling."
There will also be a showing of "Anytown NC: Pittsboro Documentary Series" at the screening. "Anytown" is a series of eight short documentary films profiling people, places and events in Pittsboro, produced in association with the Center for Documentary Studies.
"Millworker the Documentary" and the "Anytown NC: Pittsboro Documentary Series" will be screened at the Chatham Mills Center, 480 Hillsboro St., Pittsboro, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21. An admission donation of $5 is requested, with all proceeds benefiting ChathamArts and the "Anytown NC" project.
For more information, call ChathamArts at (919) 542-0394.
DVDs of "Millworker the Documentary" are available at ChathamArts Gallery for $15 for ChathamArts members and $20 for non-members. The DVDs also include a short documentary of Mikhail Baryshnikov's visit with folk artist Clyde Jones.
"Millworker the Documentary" cutline “Millworker,”rnthe play about the life of textile mill workers in the 1920s and 1930s,rnby Central Carolina Community College theater instructor Ellen Blandrnand Drew Lasater, one of her former students, captured audiences’rnhearts after it premiered at the historic Chatham Mills in Pittsboro inrn2003. The play and its impact on audiences are chronicled in LindarnBooker’s film ‘Millworker the Documentary,” which will be screened atrnChatham Mills Center at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21. Admission is a $5 donation.rnAll proceeds will benefit ChathamArts and the ‘Anytown NC’ documentaryrnproject. The cast, which drew praise from critics, consisted of Bland’srntheater students and community members and musicians.