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HomeArts/LeisureLast weekend for David Alford's "Spirit"

Last weekend for David Alford’s “Spirit”

About this time of year when the last of the Autumn leaves turn crimson and start to gather around the welcome mat, the residents that live between the Montgomery and Robertson county line begin to have out-of-towners knock on their door. They come from miles around in search of Adams and its famous attractions, The Bell Witch, The Bell Witch Cave, and David Alford’s play “Spirit”.

In the early 19th century in what is now Adams, Tennessee the Bell family was tormented by a “spirit”. In fact, the only recorded death in U.S. history caused by a Spirit was the death of the family’s patriarch John Bell. From the day of John Bell’s death up to modern day Adams, the story has been passed down from one family to the other like a cherished family bible.

The Cast of "Spirit"

The Alford family was no exception. David Alford grew up in Adams and like many in this area ended up at Austin Peay. His junior year in college, young David made the switch from a degree in music to theatre and never looked back. While at Austin Peay he drew the attention of American Playwright Arthur Kopit.

“When your grandma tells you you’re going to be famous someday its one thing, when Arthur Kopit tells you that, you take notice.”  Alford says.

With that recommendation and an acceptance letter from Julliard, David sold his best cow to help pay for the expenses and caught a plane to New York. While in New York he perfected his craft, writing and performing for four years before returning to his roots in Tennessee. He found his niche in Nashville and started the Mockingbird Public Theatre company. It had a good ten year run when David was asked to step into the Executive Artistic Director position over the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, where he served for three years.

In 2003 he was called upon to put down on paper the legend that had been passed down to him – The Legend of The Bell Witch. But before he wrote the first word he went straight to the source for permission.

Carney Bell who lives near Adams is a direct descendant of the Bell family and Alford wanted Bell’s blessing on something so personal that happened to his family. Bell said he was glad and that it would be an honor. Alford set out to write a historically accurate portrayal using a first persons’ account. The play is an adaptation of M.V Ingram’s book “The Authenticated History of the Bell Witch” which relies upon Richard Williams Bell’s memoir “Our Family Trouble.”

Alford describes the play as Bell Witch 101.

If you want to acquaint yourself with the Bell Witch legend and get a basic understanding of it, this play is a really good way to do it.”

Not only did David Alford write it but he gets to help bring his vision to life by casting the play himself. Many of the actors are from The Repertory Theatre in Nashville, while many others are locals from the town of Adams. Bob Bell, son of Carney Bell, portrays his own ancestor in his role as John Bell Sr. It’s one thing to see any actor in this role, but its really something special to know that the actor is a direct descendant of the man this all happened to. All of the actors, both professional and local, bring so much to this production.

I attended this play last weekend in the open air pavilion behind the Adams Antique Mall on land that originally was part of the Bell farm. Let me say that I have been involved in lots of theatre and seen more than my share of plays, and none other than this play have literally brought a chill to my core. David Alford brings what you think you could imagine about the Bell Witch to life right before your very eyes. Stage tricks, and technical know-how that leaves you asking “How did they do that?” is just one reason why I have returned to see the same play for three years in a row! Another reason is that this story, this history, and this account of what happened to this particular family is so troubling and so disturbing that you just want to know more. Its just human nature. As David Alford puts it:

“Whether it happened today or in the past, people are still people. The way we react to traumatic events is universal.”

Mr. Alford takes you into the community of Red River (Adams) in the year 1818 and sits you down to listen to not his story but to the community’s story, then encourages you to take that bit of history with you and tell it to your neighbor.

You do not want to miss this production this weekend! David Alford is playing the role as the narrarator in this production, and how important it is to see his wonderful performance since he is not planning on returning to the role again next year. There are just three performances left. October 30-November 1st. Each performance starts at 7:00pm

Tickets are Adult $15.00 and Student Tickets $8.00. For more information call 615-696-1300  or 615-696-2989 Or visit their website at www.bellwitchplay.com

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