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Sewickley Presbyterian Church members to revive 75-year-old play

The players

More than 20 people are in the cast.

Natalie House of Edgeworth, a Quaker Valley student, as Hannah Shields; and Maddie Braksick of Sewickley Heights, a Sewickley Academy student as Rebecca Shields, also play seminary scholars, along with Maggie Dobbins of Glen Osborne, a QV student; Lyndsey Garbee of Bell Acres, a QV student; Cara Dietrich of Bradford Woods, academy student; and Emma Szuba of Sewickley, QV student.

Don Birnie of Leet is the Rev. John Williamson Nevin; Bill Cook of Glen Osborne, the Rev. Joseph Reed; John Orndorff of Glen Osborne, James McLaughlin; Tom Graham of Bell Acres, David Shields; and Joan Murdoch of Aleppo as his wife, Eliza Shields.

Laura Vassamillet of Bell Acres plays Mary Gould Olver,founder and superintendent of Edgeworth Female Seminary; Matt Doebler of Aleppo plays the Rev. Daniel Nevin, intended first pastor chosen by a committee; the Rev. Daniel Eagle was hired.

William Nevin is played by Doane Shipley of Sewickley Hills and John Champ, by Wayne Murphy, Edgeworth mayor. Their characters were co-heads of the Boys Academy, now Sewickley Academy.

Susie Cockrell of Sewickley, whose maiden name is Nevin, plays Mrs. J.W. Nevin. She is the only cast member with a blood line to one of the original Sewickley families.

By Joanne Barron
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
 

Josh Taylor-Martin said Sewickley Presbyterian Church's historical play is a way to take names from plaques on the church's walls and bring them to life.

The play, “One Hundred Years Ago,” will be presented as a 4 p.m. dinner-theater event on Sunday in the Edgeworth Club, 511 East Drive, Edgeworth, where it was staged 75 years ago to celebrate the church's 100th anniversary.

“So many of the characters in this show have their names on those plaques, so there is somewhat of a historical accuracy there,” said Taylor-Martin of Avalon, who is co-director with Laura MacDougall of Edgeworth and is the play's narrator.

The play focuses on the founding of the church on Feb. 17, 1838, and will be the final activity of the anniversary celebration that began in February, said producer Nancy Bunce of Leet, co-chairwoman of the anniversary committee with Rich Weber of Sewickley Heights.

The evening will include an historical exhibit, a special hymn commissioned by the church for the anniversary, a poem by Susan Polo Cherwein and music composed by David Cherwein.

Bunce said the play, written by Isabel Booth 75 years ago, includes three scenes. The first takes place in the living room of the home of David Shields — where he and several other men met to discuss establishing the church and employing a pastor —­ and the second and third are in the schoolroom of the Edgeworth Female Seminary, where church services were held as the first church was being built.

Taylor-Martin, who has a master's degree in directing from the University of Southern Mississippi, said the play has challenged him “because, at times, it is evident that it was written in a very different time.”

“However, the actors are doing a wonderful job of finding the nuances of the characters and discovering the elements of dialogue and interaction that are lively and humorous,” he said.

Churches used to host dramatic performances to tell stories of the Bible to residents of a community.

“In this case, we are translating a story that is unknown to most of the church, that of our creation,” he said. “It helps to add continuity to our story as a church, connect the people of today to the members of yesterday and enriches our congregational body with a sense of who we are. It is also interesting to see how, even over the course of 175 years, some things — buildings, roads, and landmarks — still remain.”

Over the years, the membership met in a small log church built near the Sewickley Valley YMCA on Addy Beer's farm; in the Edgeworth Female Seminary, a boarding school for young ladies; in a brick church built across the street from the present church; and in the present church, built in 1861 after membership grew to 235 when the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad laid track through what then was known as Sewickley Bottoms.

Bunce said in the original play, many of the actors were relatives of those portrayed in the story.

This time, the play involved about 50 people among the actors and artistic team.

“We wanted to try to involve as many as we could in this endeavor,” Bunce said.

“This is a way to provide fellowship for the actors and an educational opportunity for our members and guests.” For more information, call the church at 412-741-4550.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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