‘Strange Fruit’ Blooms at PC

By IGOR TOMESKI

Contributing Writer

The Piedmont College Theatre Department is currently working on the production of the play “Strange Fruit.” 

The guest director, Thom Fogarty, from New York City is currently residing on campus while bringing the play to life.   

“The preparation of the play is going well,” said Fogarty. “What we do will remain history- bringing this play back after 70 years in such a great environment. We have almost finished blocking the entire show, with only a couple of scenes left. The actors from Piedmont College Theater amaze me so much with their talent and enthusiasm they bring to rehearsals. There is a culture of support by everyone in the department, including Bill Gabelhausen, Kathy Blandin, Henry Johnson and John Spiegel. I thought I would be out of my comfort zone, and instead, I am being welcomed and allowed to grow within my own contextual way.”

Fogarty explained he discovered Lillian E. Smith’s work after his daughter created a one-woman show using Smith’s words. 

He and his daughter visited the Lillian E. Smith Center, which Piedmont currently owns.

“While we were there, I started looking through the archival material for ‘Strange Fruit,’ and I found out that the play was performed only once in Broadway in 1945,” Fogarty said. “Then it was closed. Apparently,  [Smith] was not happy with [how] it was received and treated, stating that Broadway should never do the show again.”

According to Fogarty, Smith kept documentation on the changes she would implement into her version of the Broadway show.

“I found Smith’s niece, who was the keeper of everything at that point, and I proposed to her the idea of bringing back the show,” Fogarty said. “She said, ‘Well, see what you can do.’ So, I decided to write the adaptation, implementing the changes. I restored the things that may have been taken out from Broadway.”

Fogarty also added scenes found within the novel that were originally removed from the Broadway play. 

He developed a shorter script that requires eight actors who portray 36 characters.

“Since Piedmont College owns the property and rights to all of the material of all of Smith’s work, it was a perfect place for me to see how this experiment was going to work for the first time after 70 years on stage,” said Fogarty. 

“Strange Fruit” will premiere on the Mainstage Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 1-3 and 2:00 p.m. on Oct. 4.