Theatre Professor Stars in World Debut of “Cheever”

Theatre+Professor+Stars+in+World+Debut+of+%22Cheever%22

This summer, Piedmont’s very own Professor Bill Gabelhausen returned to the stage for the first time in 25 years in Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center’s premiere of Emory Jones’ “Cheever,” which ran August 5 through 12.

Last summer, Piedmont College’s summer stock theatre company, North Georgia Theatre, had the privilege of putting on the first production of Emory Jones’ play, “The Valley Where They Danced.” It was Jones’ first play and a huge success among the Habersham community. Gabelhausen directed the show and became good friends with the playwright. Earlier this year, Jones approached Piedmont faculty again with a new play that was being produced by the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center. The play was about local pottery legend Cheever Meaders, who had a huge influence in White County and the North Georgia area. Kathy Blandin was chosen to direct, and she had only one actor in mind for the title role: her colleague Bill Gabelhausen.

“I had a strong working relationship with the director and playwright,” Gabelhausen said. “So it sounded intriguing from the get-go.”

In the show, Cheever Meaders is 80 years old and has very limited mobility in his left arm from an injury he suffered he was young.

“It was challenging because I’m a very physical actor,” Gabelhausen said. “He had very specific requirements I had to meet.”

Not only did Gabelhausen have to play a much older man, but he also had to learn how to throw pottery and play the harmonica. Nevertheless, Gabelhausen would learn these skills and go on to connect with the character of Cheever and who he really was.

“I wanted the audience walking away knowing he had a big heart,” said Blandin. “When you hear family talk about him, they hear people tell stories about him and that he was a kind man.”

Blandin felt that Gabelhausen captured the spirit of Cheever perfectly.

“I love watching his process,” Blandin said. “He worked from the inside out. The first thing he did was find Cheever’s heart in his story, and then the physical came.”

Gabelhausen and Blandin were not the only people connected to Piedmont who worked on the show. Two current students and two alumni worked alongside them. Senior Jessica Eves ran the light and sound board during the show.

“It was really nice to work with Bill outside of Piedmont,” Eves said. “I’d seen him do monologues and small acting bits in class, and I’d heard stories of what he was like when he was a professional actor, but I’d never truly seen it. Seeing him in the role of Cheever was amazing because the Meaders family is from White County…. we had a lot of people come in that are actually related to Cheever Meaders and they left in tears because Bill was really able just to put himself in that role.”

Gabelhausen’s performance as Meaders was met with high praise across Habersham and White County. When asked if he would return to acting, Gabelhausen replied, “In the end, it was a great experience, even though it was nerve-wracking going into it… There were nights when I thought, ‘I can’t do this,’ and I would remember my students saying that, and I would encourage them that they are amazing and they’re going to do great. So yeah, I would go back to acting again.”