The history of the town of Cass is rich with tales of industry, old-time traditions and just a little bit of mischief. The most important part of the stories is the people who lived them. The hard-working woodhicks, the women raising families and the faithful locals who made the town home.
Their tales are the basis of the play, The Ballad of Cass, which will be presented in July.
Cass native Louise Burner and Missy McCollum, of the Old Brick Playhouse in Elkins, have worked together to bring back The Ballad of Cass which is based on the writing of W.E. “Tweard” Blackhurst and the original Cass play by Nicolette Maleckar.
In addition to writing the play, McCollum is also the director.
To ensure the play was accurate and kept true to the life and times of Cass in the early 1900s, Burner said she shared the work with West Virginia historians who reviewed the vernacular and culture.
“We went to the Arts and Humanities Council and they gave us a grant to have historians read through the play and tell us what should stay and what should be either taken out or changed to make it more accurate,” Burner said. “We sent the original play and had them give us their feedback. We also had local historian Bill McNeel do that.”
Burner explained that, while most of the characters in the play are based on real people, Maleckar took some liberties in adding to characteristics that may not give an accurate depiction.
“There’s a lot of Appalachian culture here. and you can lose that,” Burner said. “A lot of the language of the culture. It’s not because they were hillbillies. It’s because that was their culture.”
The original play was performed on an outdoor stage in the 1980s, but this time, it will be presented in “promenade” fashion. The players will be located throughout Cass and attendees will walk from location to location to witness history in action.
“It’s neat,” Burner said. “It’s going to be nicely paced. The characters were real people. Many of the names have been changed, but some of them have not, which is kind of interesting. Emma Burner, Elmer Burner, Virginia Burner are my relatives. Virginia comes in at one point and Missy included some quotes from her letters that we have over at the [Burner] Homeplace.”
The promenade will begin in front of the Cass Company Store and will end at the Cass Community Center, where guests will enjoy a lemonade social. Refreshments will be provided by Last Run Restaurant.
The play is sponsored by the Pocahontas County Bicentennial, Mountain Rail Adventures, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, Last Run Restaurant, The Burner Homeplace, Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Burner-Blackhurst Reunion and Poca- hontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals.
Performance times: Saturday, July 16, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday, July 17, 6 p.m.; Saturday, July 23, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and Sunday, July 24, 2 p.m.
Tickets are available online at celebratepocahon tas200.com or at the door. There is a limited number of tickets, so it is recommended to get them early.