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'Liberty' saga returns for 36th year at Sycamore Shoals

July 11th, 2014 2:25 pm by Collin Brooks

'Liberty' saga returns for 36th year at Sycamore Shoals

Andy Hall, a long-time volunteer and participant in the outdoor drama, is playing the lead role of John Carter, the strong leader of the Watauga settlement.

As it was shouted from the mountain tops, it will be shouted from Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park for the 36th year - as the story of the Revolutionary war is retold in "Liberty: The Saga of Sycamore Shoals."

The outdoor drama, which opened July 10, immerses the viewer in a series of events that helped shape not only the area, but the nation.

"The concept of outdoor drama offers a very unique format in which to present a theatrical performance," park manager Jennifer Bauer said. "Without a doubt, experiencing live theater, beside the cool waters of the Watauga River, with Fort Watauga as the backdrop to the play, is unlike any other experience."

Your taste buds can also relish in the time period this year, as dinner theater will be available on July 18-19 and July 25-26. The menu will consist of common 18th-century delicacies, including turkey legs, soup beans and corn on the cob. Those tickets are $22 for adults (13 and older) and $15 for children (ages 6-12).

Of course, the story unfolding in front of your eyes is just as important as the atmosphere.

"The stories of the sacrifices and lives of our ancestors prior to and during the American Revolution are of great importance to the understanding of the early formative years of our nation. Outdoor drama is one of many ways we bring history to life," Bauer said.

One of the many volunteer actors helping to bring the past to life is Andy Hall, whose commitment to Liberty! started in 2008 with what he thought would be a role with no lines.

"I joined the cast in 2008 with the intentions of being a walk-on," he said. "But the first night I was there, the director looked at me and said, 'You would make a good Isaac Shelby,' thus my idea of trying things out without a speaking role changed dramatically!"

That role parlayed him into playing Issac Shelby and then Robert Young. Now, for the first year, he has been given the lead role of John Carter, the strong leader of the Watauga settlement.

"I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to portray John Carter," Hall said. "He played such a major role in the history of this region. It is important to me to bring a fresh and exciting approach to the role. If our audience leaves each night with a renewed appreciation of our history, I will feel that myself and the entire cast have accomplished a very important task."

John Carter and his family came to the Watauga Old Fields in 1772 and he quickly became involved in the settlement that was now his home. With a strong need for law and order on the frontier, the Watauga Association was formed, and John Carter became chair of the new court. He also served as the commander of Fort Watauga during the Cherokee attack of the fort in July of 1776.

Carter also constructed the mansion which bares his name in 1775. Considered the oldest standing frame house in the state of Tennessee, it is a satellite of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area located in Elizabethton.

Those are big shoes to fill for Hall, but he puts more importance in the story the cast tells than the role he portrays.

"Liberty is very important to me," Hall said. "I feel that we must continue to tell our story so everyone will know the importance of where they are from and will understand the importance of continuing to tell this story for many years to come."

The first show of the season was held July 10 at 7:30 p.m. It will continue Thursdays-Saturdays, July 10-12, July 17-19, and July 24-26, in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton. On July 19, there will be an interpreter for the hearing impaired.

Performances begin nightly at 7:30. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (55 & over), and $5 for children (ages 6-17). Children 5 and under are admitted free. The ticket booth opens at 6 p.m. Veteran's Night will be Thursday, July 17, with veterans and one escort admitted free. For additional information, please call the park at 423-543-5808 or visit their website at www.sycamoreshoalstn.org.

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