Directors' Choice Award Winner
Book & Lyrics by Bryan Leys, Music by Kevin Kuhn
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Inspired by true events, Carolina Rising tells a tale of how frustration mixed with courage can turn a troublemaker into a hero.
In 1973 in Roanoke Rapids, NC, the JP Stevens Company owns the mill, the stores, banks, and most of the housing. The result is a corporate fiefdom where the company's will is law, working conditions are poor, hours are long, and compensation is low.
Crystal Ann McKay, a young widow with a child, works as a label sewer. Her prospects are limited; her wild and independent spirit finds no outlet in the town’s unending dreariness. She is courted by Boomer Benson, a nice, steady guy. Crystal marries him mostly out resignation and for the sake of her kid.
Life abruptly changes one day when labor organizer Virgil Jackson arrives from Detroit. Converted by Virgil’s fiery speeches, Crystal agrees to help him form a union. Her home becomes headquarters for interracial labor meetings. Soon, Crystal’s marriage is in trouble and when she goes back to the mill to serve as Virgil’s spy, she gets caught stealing documents.
Arrested and shamed in front of the town, Crystal has to apologize to her son as she is carted off to jail. She finds herself more and more attracted to Virgil, but he ultimately puts the union first.
Once the union is formed, Virgil moves on to the next town. Crystal gains a new perspective on who she is and what she can do. She has learned that defiance comes with a price, but in the end, the journey can be well worth it.
The show has a bouncy country western score and a good deal of down-home humor. The cast includes six principals; the secondary characters can be performed by members of the band.
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