The fantasy of the theater was blended with the reality of history this past weekend at Blandwood Mansion, where five intrepid and talented actors portrayed members of the Morehead’s extended family as part of Greensboro’s Bicentennial Heritage Festival. Over 200 visitors were able to get a glimpse of the lives of the Morehead’s on the days of April 12th and 13th of 1865. This was a weighty period in Greensboro’s past, as the power of the Confederate government was crumbling in the city and citizens anxiously awaited the arrival of Union troops.
In Blandwood’s vignettes, four scenes were portrayed to provide insights on the concerns and apprehensions of the historical characters. Actors Alison Walls and Lori Leigh played Emma Morehead Gray and her best friend Mary, both Edgeworth Female Seminary graduates. The women were concerned over their husband’s safety in battle, the number of wounded soldiers scattered throughout town, and whether the normalcy of pre-War years would return to Greensboro.
Eloise Hassell took on the role of Mrs. Morehead. Pacing about in her bedroom, the lady of the house fretted over her sons’ safety in battle, dwindling food rations, and overall uncertainties related to the future due to War. In his nearby law office, the former governor John Motley Morehead was portrayed by Dale J. Metz. Morehead pondered the wisdom of initiating the Civil War, the financial challenges that faced his beloved state of North Carolina, and the mounting casualties of a hopeless War.
Actor Mary L. Stevens took a contrasting perspective in the kitchen in carrying the role of the Morehead’s enslaved cook Hannah (image, top). Historical records indicate that the Morehead’s relied on Hannah for her resourcefulness in keeping the family well-fed, all the time anticipating the arrival of Union soldiers who might bring about change to the oppressive institution of slavery.
We are most grateful to Alison, Lori, Eloise, Dale, and Mary for bringing the Morehead’s to life. Participants enjoyed their heartfelt performances that were based on historical documentation from the period. Their professionalism and dedication to their craft was apparent throughout the long weekend!
History and art, when brought together, make a powerful combination.
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