If you have been paying attention, each September the local community theater trots out some of those interesting citizens from the past for a picnic, which they call Dining with the Dearly Departed. It is not a new idea. Many communities have some similar event. It is an event that appeals, not only to longtime residents, but also to newcomers as well. I shouldn’t be surprised. These stories have universal appeal. I have always said you could populate a good novel with the past residents of Main Street. Oh wait, William Faulkner has already done that, hasn’t he?
I think everyone has at least one good story. Uncovering that story from the past and retelling it is one of my great pleasures. I think it is one of those great southern trademarks. Perhaps it is merely some twisted variation of gossip. However, if I need to make an excuse, this retelling of these tales gives context to how we arrived at today’s place in history. Plus, it reminds us that we are all human. The photographs may be black and white, but our past is just as colorful as our present.
The Janice Mason Art Museum and Southern Kentucky Independent Theatre are once again presenting Dining with the Dearly Departed on September 20. Generally this event has been held in East End Cemetery, but it was decided to add some excitement to the deceased agenda and move them around town a little. So this year the picnic will be held in downtown Cadiz. For the theme this year, the cast will depict a collection of citizens who met an untimely end in some slightly unusual way.
Some of these stories you may have repeated to your friends, and some you may have never heard. Maybe you would be interested to know there was once a shoot-out on Main Street – which definitively ended a decade-long argument. Or maybe you remember the old South Road Bridge collapsing with a truckload of crossties. It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. In our situation I sometimes think, “Wow, did this really happen right here in Cadiz?” This gathering is a good opportunity to visit with likeminded folks and experience a good dose of historical gossip.
A good performance has always been enjoyed in Cadiz. The earliest records at city hall establish the license fee for those wishing to stage a live performance at two dollars. By 1830 the license increased to five dollars. The license covered such spectacles as a live menagerie and a showing of paintings. Who would have thought that in those days an exhibit of paintings would be so popular that a special license would need to be established?
I frequently hear folks ask, “How do you come up with all those stories?” Well, the truth is we started with stories that we have heard all our lives, old favorites that we have told each other repeatedly. Then as people realized what we were up to, they would share their favorite stories or some recently discovered tidbit. Oh yes, we have a file of suggestions that are in need of research for future performances. No, we don’t have a file on living legends even though it is tempting. I have a friend whose suggestions began with, “When so-in-so dies, you should get Mrs. X to play them in the cemetery tour.” Portia Ezell, who is the director of the production, says that perhaps she should write her own script to insure that her story is told to her liking.
So, those crazy people you see in the cemetery are actors. We are accustomed to being called crazy, so it’s no insult. We live for any opportunity to put on a costume and pretend to be someone else. No, none of that bothers me. I do worry a little about people seeing me in the weeks leading up to the cemetery tour, and there I am out in the cemetery all by myself talking to dead people, waving my arms around, and pointing over here and then over there as I sort out in my head who is kin to whom. My friend Kim makes a biblical reference when she calls me the Mad Man of Gadara. Uh, maybe I should be worried.
For those interested, SKIT has published a book with all their prior scripts. They have reenacted over 50 individuals. You can pick up a copy at the Janice Mason Art Museum. It is fun reading, and it will certainly be interesting to see who is added to the list of characters this year. I am keeping an eye on the to-do list to make sure I am not on it anytime soon.
The Trigg County Historical and Preservation Society, Inc. has numerous ornaments that we have produced over the years still for sale. If you are interested in a past ornament, please call David Shore at 522-3975 or 871-7191, or Becky Boggess at 350-2050 or Bob Brame at 522-1122 or come by Cadiz Hardware. Remember our meeting is in the Emergency Meeting Room behind the courthouse the first Tuesday of the month at 6:00pm. The museum is closed because we are close to beginning renovations.