“I am thrilled to be bringing CONRACK, our musical adaptation of The Water Is Wide, to the stage in Beaufort, Pat Conroy’s adopted home town,” says Granville Wyche Burgess, bookwriter and lyricist for the musical and director of The Beaufort Theatre Company production of CONRACK.
The show begins in 1969 with Beaufort’s superintendent of schools’ desperate search for anyone to teach on Yamacraw Island. The school there has been totally neglected - no books, no blackboard, no attention being paid to the students. One has to take a boat from the mainland to even reach the island.
Into this hornet’s nest walks Pat Conroy, almost thirty, idealistic the way only a 60’s hippie could be, and recently fired from his twentieth job in five years. He is only too happy to answer the ad for a teacher, especially since Dr. Piedmont informs him that “no experience is exactly what I’m lookin’ for.”
When Conroy meets the children – Cindy Lou, Mary, Prophet, Anna, Top Cat, and Richard – he discovers that they can scarcely read or write, know little math, and are wildly undisciplined, but their anger barely conceals their desperate need for a teacher who will actually care. Conroy is determined to be that teacher. Taking the kids trick or treating on the mainland provokes a crisis, and Conroy learns he must let go of the children, but not before they have learned the courage to succeed and the will to keep on learning.
Professional film and stage actor Blake Logan (above) portrays Pat Conroy. A native of Mobile, AL, Logan was unfamiliar with the story when he landed the role.
“Before officially accepting the role, I devoured The Water is Wide, he says. “I couldn’t believe it had taken me that long to discover Pat Conroy and this book I now love! I knew of Conroy’s name of course, and I remember reading that he had passed a few years ago, but I had no idea how wonderful an author he was.”
Logan had never seen the movie Conrack, starring Jon Voight, either, which he now sees as a plus. “As an actor I always go into a new role with my own ideas and avoid being influenced by another actor’s interpretation. I never want to be a copy of a copy of a copy.”
He’s enjoyed researching his role in other ways, he says. “Fortunately for me there has been no shortage of people in Beaufort happy to share their own personal recollections of Mr. Conroy. Jonathan Haupt of the Pat Conroy Literary Center has been a treasure trove of knowledge and resources.”
Logan also has high praise for Granville Burgess, his director. “Working with the writer-creator of such a wonderful musical has been a real treat. If I have any questions concerning the text, Granville is right there to answer them. And like all successful writers, he knows his work can be improved upon and he is always willing to listen to suggestions and even incorporate them into the script. For years, Granville has been championing Conrack within a very competitive musical theatre industry and I’m honored that he’s entrusted me to lead a work that’s so personal for him.”
Sharing the stage with Blake Logan are the group of young actors who play Pat Conroy’s students: Jackie Brown, Lelia Green, Austin Majors, Jamari Young, Dashia Lucas, and Christopher Jenkins.
“Don’t tell them, but in all honesty they’re the true stars of the show!,” says Logan. “I love working with them and I’m so impressed at how hard they work!” Their laughter, unmeasured honesty and joyful innocence is always infectious. I hope I’m able to inspire in them that with hard work and the strong desire to connect individuals to each other and to themselves that they can not only become great actors but, more importantly, great human beings.”
Other cast members include: Grandparents, Waynda Mayse, Natasha Robinson, Hank Herring, and Curtis Dansby; the school principal, Mrs. Brown, played by Shelia Jenkins Ward; Dr. Piedmont, played by Brad Ballington, and Dr. Jackie Brooks, portrayed by Ali Salters. Production team includes: musical director Jordan Plair, choreographer Chris Crabb, stage manager Elaine Lake, set designer Greg Rawls, costume designer Pat Willcox, and scenic artist Mary Ann Ford.
CONRACK will be on stage at USCB Center for the Arts October 13 and 14 at 7:30 pm, October 15 and 22 at 3pm and October 21 at 4 pm. Ticket prices vary. For more information call the box office 843-521-4145 or go online to www.uscbcenterfortheart.com
CONRACK is made possible by our sponsor the Pat Conroy Literary Center and Quill Entertainment Company, a nonprofit whose mission is “Teaching America’s Heritage Through Story and Song.”
CONRACK is part of the 2017 Pat Conroy Literary Festival, October 19 – 22. The festival theme for the 2017 is The Transformative Power of Education. Authors and teachers from all over the southeast will be participating in the three-day festival, filled with panel discussions, lectures, book signings and workshops. For more information about the festival, visit www.patconroyliterarycenter.org