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Providence Gap Brings Appalachian Music to the Stage

Providene Gap
Providence Gap chronicles the journey of Chance Presnell, from his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the trenches of World War I.

Davidson College invites the public to a journey of self-discovery and a celebration of North Carolina's Appalachian heritage in the delightfully musical play Providence Gap.

The college's Theatre Department will produce the play March 26-27 at 7:30 p.m., March 28-29 at 8 p.m. and March 30 at 2 p.m. in the Duke Family Performance Hall. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 seniors, $10 faculty/staff and $6 students, and are available through the Union Ticket Office at 704-894-2135 or online.

Co-written by Preston Lane and Greensboro musician Laurelyn Dossett, Providence Gap was premiered in 2010 at the Triad Stage in Greensboro, N.C. The play, directed by Professor of Theatre Ann Marie Costa, follows the story of Chance Presnell (played by Allen Rigby '14), an orphan who ventures from a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the trenches of World War I in search of his true identity. The play, which embraces the timeless themes of magic and luck, is a story of finding oneself through friendship, love, myth and song.

Dossett's bluegrass, Appalachian-inspired music is interwoven throughout the action in Providence Gap. Recipient of numerous singing and songwriting awards, Dossett also will accompany Davidson student musicians in each of the play's performances.

Dossett said that her work is often linked to the culture of her North Carolina home. "Preston and I purposefully try to write material that is of and for our region," she explained. "One of the compelling components of our collaboration for Providence Gap is our use of regionally flavored music, which employs regional musicians and authentic regional instrumentation."

Dossett also pointed out that Providence Gap infuses music into the production in an unusual way. "Most of the music of the play is carried by the band, which is present on stage with the actors," she said. "Sometimes the band underscores the play's action and sometimes we are involved in the scene."

"This is an unusual way of allowing music to tell part of the story, and sets Providence Gap apart from most musical theatre," Dossett added.

Unique Collaboration

Providence Gap
Allen Rigby ’14, Blaire Ebert ’17 and Tatum Pottenger ’14 play leading roles in Providence Gap.

Dossett also expressed her excitement to work with talented Davidson musicians, including students Arielle Korman '17, Dylan Morris '17, Grey Gordon '15 and Professor of Chemistry Durwin Striplin. "I've worked with Davidson students before, and they are just as talented as I remember," she said. "They are all multitalented, easygoing, collaborative and creative."

Another of Dossett's student collaborators is actress Tatum Pottenger '14. Pottenger plays the mystical mountain woman, Cordie, who sets into motion much of the play's action.

"I have a lot of freedom with this role because Cordie is not fully a spirit, and not fully human, but somewhere in between," Pottenger explained. "It's challenging but very fun to figure out."

Pottenger and the other cast members have been perfecting their Appalachian accents. "The accents differ from traditional Alabama or South Carolina accents because there's more enunciation on consonants and the endings of words," she explained.

Pottenger, who has been involved in six other theatre productions at Davidson, also noted the unique nature of Providence Gap's music. "The music is mostly in the hands of the band, but characters often carry the musical themes throughout the show and bring them to life on stage," she said.

"I've never interacted with musicians on stage in this way," Pottenger added. "It's really innovative."

Pottenger also offered a reflection on the play's universal themes. "The play's title word, ‘Providence,' holds a clue to the resounding themes of luck, fortune and chance at work," she said. "Finding who you are is a lifelong journey that we all traverse, and I think it's fascinating to watch Chance, the main character, go through that process on stage."

Dossett added, "The play's story and music offer something that people of all ages can relate to. When we first performed Providence Gap at Triad stage, we gathered diverse audiences because they found the content so enjoyable and accessible."