Two cherished High Country cultural organizations, Blue Ridge Community Theatre and Southern Appalachian Historical Association, are joining forces to honor the late Charlotte Tanksley Ross, a regional storyteller known as “The Legend Lady.”
The groups will present excerpts from the award-winning play, “From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me,” written and performed by Ross’s daughter, Boone native Clarinda Ross, with live music by Appalachian ballad singer Mary Greene.
Performances with take place outside at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, June 19 through 21 on the Coffey Cabin porch in the Hickory Ridge Homestead at “Horn In The West” with a reception immediately following the Sunday matinee. Reservations are not required but there is a suggested donation of $20 per person and all proceeds benefit the Dr. Carl A. and Charlotte T. Ross Scholarship in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University.
Limited bench seating is available; however, you are encouraged to bring your own chairs, cushions, and blankets to this outdoor event which will follow CDC social-distancing guidelines.
Charlotte Tanksley Ross died peacefully on Easter Sunday 2021, just a few months short of her 80th birthday. She was an authority on the folklore of her beloved mountains and the editor of “The Bibliography of Southern Appalachia.” A protégé of Dr. Cratis Williams, they frequently traveled together to Scotland and Ireland to research the origins of Appalachian culture. Like her mentor, Ross was an educator and became a renowned storyteller of the region. Charlotte was the Curator of the original Appalachian Collection at Appalachian’s Belk Library in the 1970s before becoming the Western Regional Director for the N.C. Humanities Council overseeing grants for the regional scholars and artists.
Charlotte Ross was passionate about the Appalachian mountain region and its culture, and shared that love with her late husband Carl, a tenured history professor at Appalachian State University and Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at the time of his death in 1988. Charlotte entertained audiences all over the region and delighted in telling stories and sharing oral history with school and civic groups.
She advised many authors including Sharyn McCrumb, who based the Character “Nora Bonesteel” in her “ballad” series of books on Ross. Charlotte taught at Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, Caldwell Community College, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Brian Fannon, a long-time historical interpreter at SAHA’s Hickory Ridge History Museum, “recalls many Saturday nights in the 90s where Charlotte was surrounded by large groups of people gathered around the back porch of the Coffey cabin at Hickory Ridge listening to her stories of the Appalachian mountains."
In the tradition of mountain storytelling, “From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me,” by Clarinda Ross, tells the joys and sorrows of five generations of women in the author’s family with honesty and humor. Common historical events are related in terms of how they affected this particular family. The play is a testament to the power of family storytelling, and how it can shape the lives of generations.
The play has been presented by theatres around the country as well as internationally, warmly received by audiences since its debut at the 1987 Spoleto Festival. It was developed and directed by Appalachian graduate David Thomas with support from the Georgia Council for the Arts and has toured from Vidalia, Georgia to Los Angeles to Lillehammer, Norway, and many places in between with the sponsorship the National Endowment for the Arts. The L. A. production ran for six months and garnered many honors including a prestigious Critic’s Choice Award. A 1990 film version was produced for PBS and directed by John David Allen.
Los Angeles-based writer Clarinda Ross is celebrating her thirty-third year as a professional actor. Her play, “Spit Like A Big Girl” has been produced by several professional theatres and was the 2015 featured work at the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights at the Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia and was subsequently published by Applause Theatre Books. Clarinda made her film debut in “Blue Sky” with Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones. Her television credits include; “The United States of Tara,” “Medium,” “The District,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Judging Amy,” “E.R.,” “The Client,” “NewsRadio,” “Days of Our Lives,” “In The Heat of The Night,” and “I'll Fly Away.” She's also appeared in several movies of the week, most notably the Emmy award-winning “Stolen Babies” with Mary Tyler Moore.
Clarinda is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. Her plays are currently streaming at www.900PennyTheatre.com in Chicago and www.HorizonTheatre.com in Atlanta, GA. Clarinda is an alumnus of the Alliance Theatre’s intern program, the Conservatory of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and a 1983 theatre graduate of Appalachian State University. She has three children, Clara, Frank, and Gus, and is married to the actor, Googy Gress.
Blue Ridge Community Theatre board president Julie A. Richardson said that they, “are proud to present Clarinda Ross in a play she wrote that brings the past from her mother’s family and love of storytelling to life. With the recent passing of this grand Appalachia storyteller, we hope to acknowledge how this ancient artform can be an influence for future generations.” Richardson noted that Clarinda is an alumnus of previous BRCT productions, performing in both “Carousel” and “The Sound of Music.”