Swappin’ Lies in Miller County: The Story of Swamp Gravy

Here’s a link to a story I wrote for Atlanta Art Papers in 1994 (Vol. 18, No.5) about Swamp Gravy, a remarkable community-based theater project that began in Miller County, Georgia, in 1991. It was a collaboration among Community Performance Inc. (CPI) and the citizens of Miller County. Using CPI writer Jo Carson’s method of gathering local stories from every level of county society and crafting them into a script, then adding Geer’s creative direction with music and movement, Miller County inaugurated “Swamp Gravy” in an old cotton warehouse in Colquitt in 1994.

Performed by 70 Miller County residents, the play became so popular that it was dubbed Georgia’s Official Folklife Play, attracting busloads of audience members from the state and beyond. Each year a new play is written out of local experience and performed by Colquitt’s butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. It has been successful beyond the collaborators’ wildest dreams and has turned the local economy around. A rickety venture that started with seed money of $2,000 now has a million-dollar budget, owns its own building and is the largest employer in Miller County.

This story, commissioned by Art Papers, was republished (with permission) in 1999 on the Community Arts Network. It resides in the CAN archive on the Web.

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