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More than 70 actors and crew members bring 'The Trail of the Lonesome Pine' to life

Sam Bass • Jul 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM

"What’s yur name, stranger," boomed Devil Judd Tolliver, brandishing his carbine from a cliff overlooking a riverbank in Lonesome Cove, "an what’s yur business here?"

In this scene the character Devil Tolliver, played by local actor Jack McClanahan, confronts Jack Hale, a visitor who had just met Tolliver’s daughter, June, while he was fishing in the river at Lonesome Cove. The setting is late summer 1890 from the popular novel "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine," written by Big Stone Gap author John Fox, Jr. and published in 1908. Fox based his novel on many of the actual people and the events which took place in the late nineteenth century Big Stone Gap, Va., region.

At its heart, "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" is a delightfully entertaining musical drama which weaves the tender love story of June Tolliver, a beautiful Appalachian girl, who falls in love with Jack Hale, a handsome young mining engineer from the East.

In the end, the story captures the unexpected impact the great coal and iron ore boom had on the proud mountain people of Southwest Virginia, forcing them to make many dramatic and unforeseen changes in their way of life.

"The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama" is produced by Lonesome Pine Arts & Crafts, Inc. (LPAC) and is directed and choreographed this year by regional theatre veteran Everett Tarlton.

The play opened its first season in 1964. At age 49, it’s the longest continually-running outdoor drama in the Commonwealth and has been named the Official Outdoor Drama of Virginia. Performances are offered three days a week during July and August every year at the June Tolliver Playhouse in Big Stone Gap, and are presented before the Playhouse’s giant 72-foot painted panorama of the valley.

This year’s production is being led by LPAC board member and veteran drama volunteer Ron Flanary, who is stepping in as associate producer during long-time LPAC president and producer Barbara Polly’s absence this summer.

It’s Flanary’s responsibility to ensure a smooth running production of "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" and the care and direction of more than 70 actors, staff and stage crew that make the real magic happen.

"It was hard for me to appreciate what Barbara and the LPAC volunteers do," said Flanary, "until I had the responsibility myself."

The 2012 season has been special in many ways to the outdoor drama, its loyal volunteers and its growing audiences. This summer, for example, the June Tolliver Playhouse replaced its old wooden benches with new amphitheatre seating and upgraded the landscaping, all thanks to the support of the C. Bascom Slemp Foundation and the many community donors who sponsored individual seats.

So, this season, guests who join "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama" ensemble for their performance of this American classic will not only be thoroughly entertained, but entertained in amphitheatre comfort. Bravo!

For more behind-the-scenes photos from the outdoor drama, see the July 15 edition of Sunday Stories.

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