Swamp Gravy provides lessons in diversity, community

November 5, 2009 |

Indiana University East is bringing the production Swamp Gravy to Vivian Auditorium on November 7, 2009. The play, the official folk play of the state of Georgia, is a collection of personal stories from the community shared on stage.

In its 20th year, Swamp Gravy blends comedy, drama, and music and features a cast of more than 100 volunteers who transform southern life into unforgettable theater. The entertainment is a cultural experience based on southern Georgia’s family stories, local history, myths and a perspective on current events. The cast will perform last seasons’ show “Ain’t No Telling.”

Mardi Bergen, lecturer in communications, brought the play to Richmond after researching the community play while on sabbatical.

Bergen and Shelia Armstead, assistant professor of Social Work, have developed a course based on the community production a Learning in Communities (LinC) Diversity-Theatre course, which uses classical and modern plays to help students understand the widespread effects of many types of diversity and the lack of understanding surrounding it. 

Bergen said the student skits also demonstrate everyday problems and how learning problem-solving skills can lead to better decision making as they attempt to manage their life choices and relationships with other people.  The course was inspired by a conference, attended by Armstead and Bergen, and sponsored by Florida State University’s School of Social Work held in Swamp Gravy’s Cotton Mill Theatre in partnership with members of the Miller County Arts Council of Colquitt, Ga.

As part of the learning outreach for this project, children from the Jetter Center at the Boys and Girls Club of Richmond displayed their coloring and IU East students shared their research projects related to the upcoming production of Swamp Gravy, on October 25 at the Wayne County Historical Museum. IU East students have used the influence of the production to formulate their own creative writing projects and storytelling.

A few activities will precede the performance in Whitewater Hall. Join IU East at 6:15 p.m. in the Whitewater Hall Lobby including the Boot Sliding Belles Line Dancers, Swamp Gravy Tasting Contest, and to learn the opening song, “I’ve Got a Story to Tell.” Those who learn the song and wish to participate in singing the opening song with the cast may do so.

Members of the Swamp Gravy cast will visit Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church to sing several hymns for a coming documentary intended to draw attention to the difficult economic times which threaten the continuing existence of the building which was built with furniture and 64 windows designed by Tiffany.