By Gina Malone
The Vance Birthplace State Historic Site and the American Myth Center (AMC) once again team up to present An Appalachian Christmas Carol Thursday, December 12, through Saturday, December 14. This retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has Civil War governor Zebulon Vance confronted by ghosts who show him the story of Venus, an enslaved woman on the property.
The story, says AMC creator and director Aaron Snook, seeks to shed light on parts of Vance’s life that have been overlooked. “Vance did a lot of good for the state of NC, which has been well documented,” Snook says, “but he was also a slave owner who pushed white supremacist policies into our politics. I believe it’s important to be able to hold both ideas when evoking and discussing him. To be clear, we’re not trying to vilify Vance, but we also don’t want to add to the canonizing.”
The production is a site- based, immersive, promenade experience at the historic site. Storytelling stops along the tour use live actors, recorded voices and various kinds of puppetry, including crankies, spools of paper cranked across so that images reveal themselves from side to side. Shadow puppetry and a marionette are other devices used in the production. “They are all storytelling tools that I’ve fallen in love with because they bring a sense of delight to the theatrical experience, which can be extremely useful when tackling complex, difficult issues,” Snook says.
Kimberly Floyd, site manager for the historic site, helped with adapting the production. “The Vance Birthplace State Historic Site’s goal is to always tell an accurate, broad and inclusive narrative in all of our educational programs and events,” she says.
Visitors can expect to learn some history of Venus and the Vance family, Floyd says, while considering generosity and empathy. “Dickens has been credited with influencing the spirit of our Western observance of the holiday, the general generosity of spirit,” she says. “The generosity of spirit is contrary to the history of slavery, thus encouraging the participant to think deeply about the impact of Zebulon Vance and his views.”
To learn more, call 828.645.6706 Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit AmericanMythCenter.org. Tours will run every 30 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m., with the last tour at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for those ages 18 and under. Children 5 and under are admitted free. Reservations are strongly encouraged. The Vance Birthplace State Historic Site is located at 911 Reems Creek Road in Weaverville.