Tammie Gercken Writer
The Burke Historical Foundation will host a theater company with local ties for a special presentation.
The organization invited actors Kim and Ken Kay of Kay-Squared Productions to perform two plays onstage at the historic Burke County Courthouse at 201 S. Green St. in Morganton.
The Kays have been married for 32 years and have worked together in numerous theater and film productions. They founded Kay-Squared Productions in 2014 in Jupiter, Florida. Since Kim is from Drexel, the couple has a strong connection to Burke County.
“We contacted the Historic Burke Foundation board about a year ago, and they graciously invited us to meet with them and submit a proposal,” Ken said. “The people at HBF have been real partners with us and super friendly too. We are really happy and grateful to have this opportunity.
Kim will perform the solo piece she wrote, titled “Silver Shadows: Dark Side of the Mountain,” at 7 p.m. on July 12, 13, and 14.
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The coin depicts the life of Burke County resident Frankie Silver. Silver was one of the first women to be hanged in North Carolina after being convicted of killing her husband, Charlie Silver, with an ax and dismembering his body on December 22, 1831, according to previous articles from the News Herald. Many now believe Frankie acted in self-defense during a heated argument with Charlie that preceded his murder. She was hanged on July 12, 1833.
Kim, a graduate of Appalachian State University, made her debut in the 2014 courthouse play, directed by Ken. The legend of Frankie continues to fascinate her.
“I’ve done more research that informs me of this time period – what Burke County and Morganton looked like in 1831,” Kim said. “I located and chatted with some of Frankie’s family, heard their voices a bit. I am still haunted by this story and the circumstances that led to Charlie’s murder and Frankie’s death. The wheels of justice moved so slowly for her. In my mind, she must have heard about the construction of the current courthouse. You stand on stage in this hallowed hall and it connects us all to our history.
Themes from the story, such as intolerance, domestic violence, and human rights, are social issues that people still face today.
“The voices of minorities who have no voice ring too true in our current society,” Kim said. “When Frankie’s dad said, ‘Die with that in you, Frankie,’ on the gallows, she was silenced, in many ways the way women and people of color are.”
Ken will take the stage in his solo production of “The Things They Carried” at 7 p.m. on July 20, 21 and 23.
The play is a staged adaptation of Tim O’Brien’s award-winning literary classic about a company of soldiers in Vietnam, according to the press release.
“I play a dozen different characters on ‘The Things They Carried’,” Ken said. “First there’s Tim, who’s based on the real Tim O’Brien. He’s the main character in the play. The other characters are members of his infantry platoon, but there’s also the father of Tim, his daughter, and an old man named Elroy who comes to Tim’s aid during a real crisis of conscience Finding the distinct voices and physical characteristics of each of these people has been part of the challenge, but also a lot of fun. This is what gives the piece its real punch.
Ken served with the US Navy Seabees during the Vietnam War.
“I didn’t get sent to Nam – the navy had other plans for me – but a lot of the guys I served with went there, and some didn’t survive,” Ken said. “Their stories and experiences still resonate with me today.”
Although the piece, like “Silver Shadows”, is historical in nature, Ken noted how it also highlights themes relevant today.
“I discovered in a previous production how much this conflict still affects the families and friends of veterans today,” Ken said. “As the widow of a Vietnam veteran wrote to me: ‘We left the theater changed, with bigger and more vulnerable hearts, and with undeniable pride in the sheer bravery of people who survived the most intolerable and compassion for their humanity. As an actor, you can’t ask for more than that – that connection is priceless.
“The Things They Carried” is performed by special arrangement with the Susan Schulman Literary Agency in New York.
The Kays are looking forward to performing again at the old courthouse.
“The former courtroom space is just perfect for the kind of plays we’ll be performing there,” Ken said. “It’s small and intimate. And it’s a great space for the public – there are no bad seats! Additionally, the courthouse has a very long and colorful history as a place where many “legal dramas” have taken place. I feel like we’re just following that tradition.
Tickets to “Silver Shadows” and “The Things They Carried” are $20 for adults, $18 for veterans and students, and $15 for HBF members. Tickets can be purchased from HBF by contacting 828-437-4104 or by visiting the historic Burke County Courthouse from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. People can also buy tickets online at historicburke.org or at the door on the day of a given show. Seating is general admission for both plays.
“These stories are your stories,” Ken said. “Frankie Silver was a real person who lived and died here. His legacy and the lingering mysteries around his fate are the stuff of legend – and great theatre. Likewise, Vietnam and the lasting effects the conflict has had about our country continue to affect us today. “The Things They Carried” offers some understanding of that time and perhaps some closure for those who have lost someone important to them.
“And, of course, buying tickets to either play will help support the Historic Burke Foundation and all the important work it does. So go see a show and help keep your story alive. alive.
For more information on productions or sponsorship opportunities, contact Debbie Bradley at 828-437-4104.
Editor Tammie Gercken can be reached at email@example.com.