History is a subject near and dear to the City of Progress in 2019, as Enterprise is celebrating the 100th birthday of its famous Boll Weevil Monument on Dec. 11. However, the Boll Weevil Centennial celebrations are not limited to December alone, and Southern Broadway Dinner Theater in Downtown Enterprise is spreading centennial cheer throughout the year with its summer show, “The Depot,” which opens at 6:30 p.m. June 6.
“The Depot” is the brainchild of Southern Broadway owners Lydia Dillingham and Susan Gilmore and was the first production the duo performed as Southern Broadway, LLC in 2011. The historical fiction show, which was revived in 2013 before being brought to Southern Broadway’s Main Street location for the centennial this year, tells the story of trial, tribulation, courage and change in Enterprise during a time when cotton was king and the boll weevil threatened to destroy agriculture in the city.
According to Dillingham, she was first inspired to write the show back in 2010 due to the recent construction of Enterprise High School’s Performing Arts Center.
“The thing I think that inspired us back then was that the PAC was being built and we wanted to put a show on in there,” Dillingham said. “We thought about what would draw people in, and I was like, ‘Well, the city has a fantastically interesting story,’ because when I started reading and researching it, the statue to a bug thing was crazy. It started almost as a joke, but then it took on a life of its own. I really did think the history of Enterprise was fascinating, and I felt like people would enjoy seeing that history woven into fiction.”
“The Depot” is told from the perspective of fictional character Ruth Adams Baker through three distinct periods of her life, spanning from 1906 to the 1960s; however, real life residents of Enterprise are featured as characters or mentioned in the show, lending to its historical accuracy. Dillingham and Gilmore said the balance of fiction and realism helps to create a fascinating show for longtime Enterprise residents and new visitors alike.
“The thing that’s really special about The Depot is that people have always had a very unique response to it,” Dillingham said. “It’s so personal to a lot of people; there are characters in the show that were real people of that era, and we had to get permission from their families for that. Ben Byrd was a banker of that era, John Pittman was the agricultural extension agent, H.M. Sessions is mentioned and so are C.W. Bastion and Bon Fleming and George Washington Carver. It’s got all these real historical characters interwoven into the plot, and some real facts about Enterprise and what happened. It also has a fictitious story woven into the plot.
“I think it makes history jump off the page for people and wraps them up in the story -- it’s not boring like a documentary, but they also love the fact that it has true history in it. It tugs at them emotionally too, makes them feel maybe for the first time how those people could have felt facing the kind of adversity they did. They had to start over. They could have been bankrupt -- some of them were. It was a tough time, and it was a time for people to step up and be courageous and start over and try something they’d never tried.
“The Depot’s” cast and crew also help to make the show special in many ways, Gilmore said.
“The thing The Depot does and continues to do is, every single time, it brings out honest discussion, and it’s been positive, cathartic,” said Gilmore. “People get to see what was happening in the times, the disparity between races, and that’s an issue that runs throughout the show. We were blessed with some of the original cast from both of the previous Depot showings, but we’ve got a tremendously talented cast with an influx of new people, and the diversity is there. There are some incredible people here with us.”
The show’s menu also features some “incredible” Southern staples according to Gilmore, such as a black-eyed pea salad with skillet cornbread, Southern-style fried chicken, loaded potato casserole, fried okra, green beans and for dessert, a peanut butter pie.
Dillingham said the show is booked through the month of June, but tickets are still available for July shows and can be purchased via Southern Broadway’s website, www.southernbroadway.com, or by calling the box office at 334-470-6568.
“The Depot is a really special show -- and every show is special because of the individual casts -- but what makes The Depot a really special show is everyone working together,” Dillingham said. “It’s still the same powerful story it was in 2011, and people will tell it in a powerful way on the stage in 2019.”