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A Goodly Portion of Our Songs and Stories

Written by Jo Carson and Jerry Grillo
Directed by Lisa Mount

July 7 to 10, 2011
Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8:00 pm
Sunday at 2:00 pm

$10 SNCA Members
$16 Non-Members
$5 Children under 12
(ticket prices include tax)

Meals will be served before the
performance on Friday & Saturday
from 6:00 to 7:30 pm and
on Sunday from 12:00 to 1:30 pm
$8 a plate

See Menus Below!

For Reservations, Click the Ticket



Reservations also available by calling
The Center Box Office

It’s the best of Headwaters – for one weekend only! Discover (or re-visit) the delightful songs and intriguing stories that have animated the last four years of Headwaters, our widely-acclaimed community story play. Performed by your friends and neighbors who sing in beautiful harmony, this limited engagement is your only chance to rejoice in these stories of where we are, who we are and what we love about this Goodly Portion of Beautiful Northeast Georgia. This version of Headwaters includes the return of everyone’s favorite characters-the Bears. Furry and funny, the Bears are revealed as the true authors of the stories in Headwaters, a pair of grumpy writers who will work for Moon Pies.

Headwaters: A Goodly Portion of our Songs and Stories will tell tales of good times and sing the song called “Hard Times,” as well as offer a glimpse into the differences between the “Come-Heres and the Been-Heres.” This year’s show calls up the history of this place, from the way the mountains were formed to how the rivers run through it. Headwaters will also delight the imagination with beautiful shadow puppetry, as we spend a little time in Purgatory, sorting out the difference between bad and stupid. If you have never seen Headwaters before, you’ll find it a wonderful experience: food for your mind and your heart. If you attended a performance during the last four years of SummerFest, you wil lfind the songs, movement and stories have a new life in this new combination. The performers you’ve grown to love are back and stronger than ever, supported by the SNOrchestra and the power of theater that is uniquely relevant to this place.

Don’t miss it – these are our stories performed by our people, in a play that can only happen here. Tickets are on sale now at www.snca.org or by calling 706-878-3300. SNCA members pay only $10; non-members pay $16 (tax included). Children under 12 years are only $5. Meals will be served before the performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for $8. The fine print: Headwaters: A Goodly Portion of our Songs and Stories. Written by Jo Carson and Jerry Grillo, directed by Lisa Mount. Made possible by the generous contributions of many individuals, the Georgia Council for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Video Scenes from Headwaters



All About Headwaters...


Headwaters, the great community story performance that takes place at the Sautee Nacoochee Center each summer, is an act of collective will. People who have a creative spark gather together and over the course of several months create and perform a play that is truly unique to this Goodly Portion of Beautiful Northeast Georgia. It takes many many people to make Headwaters happen, people who contribute time and talent and food and energy and great good will. 

Making Headwaters begins every two years with a long process of gathering stories from all over Northeast Georgia. People sit down in pairs or in groups with a tape recorder, letting questions like “how did your parents meet?” and “was there a time when you had an adventure in the woods?” open up rivers of stories... People from White, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens, Banks, Hall, Union and Lumpkin counties have shared stories for Headwaters, and in the process have come to understand even better why they love where they live.

For the 2009 and 2010 production, Headwaters: Birth, Death and Places In-Between, the story collectors asked for stories about families – both the biological kind, and the kind people create for themselves when they’re no longer connected to the folks they were born to. Stories about births and about people who come back after death to help the living also emerged. Stories about families on both sides of the law – moonshiners and revenuers – defy the common “good guys/bad guys” stereotypes.  Northeast Georgia is rich in stories, and Headwaters is a way to display our local wealth.

Two playwrights – Jo Carson and Jerry Grillo – go to work on the stories that are collected and translate them into monologues and scenes, seeking to find in each one a “passage” or transformation that is a journey of some kind for someone. The key to dramatizing community stories is to find the way in which people are changed by the experience – whether they know it or not. Jo Carson has written a book, Spider Speculations: A Physics and Biophysics of Storytelling, about how stories work in the human body, and how community story performance can change a place – often by re-framing the story so that people see something they thought they knew in a whole new light.

As the stories begin to come together, the producers (Lisa Mount, Tommy Deadwyler, Terri Edgar) and director (Gerard Stropnicky) choose and commission music that helps to set the scene or tell the story. Music is an essential part of mountain culture, whether it’s old-time pickin’ parties or jam bands at outdoor festivals. 

is a collaboration among professional theater artists – producers, director, designers, playwrights, choreographer, music director – and local performers who may or may not have much theater experience, aided by an advisory group that has worked together for many years. Part of what makes the experience of seeing Headwaters so unique is that the people onstage are acting out stories of people they know, of places they’ve been, of a community in which they live. Another part of what makes the experience so satisfying is that the professional artists bring, collectively, hundreds of years of theater-making experience to the process. So Headwaters is a genuinely relevant work of art: stories from and about a place, performed by people in and from that place, shaped by people who know how to make a show that’s more than just entertaining, because it has real meaning.

The local performers who are part of Headwaters do not “audition” for the show in the traditional way, where some actors are chosen and some are not. Instead, Headwaters conducts “Talent Inventories” where the producers and director learn what skills and talents people have and decide how they might best be used. In the words of Jo Carson, “who comes, is” – anyone with a willingness to commit to the six weeks of rehearsal and three weeks of performance is automatically a part of the show.

As the cast comes together, so does the script. The text for the play is always shaped by the people who are in it.  For the first two years of Headwaters in 2007 and 2008, the show opened with a series of “I come from” statements, like “I come from a river that’s rocky and fast” and “I come from music rockin’ the barn.” For Headwaters: Birth, Death and Places In-Between we’re likely to hear about people’s families. These statements come from the cast as well as the playwrights, director and producers. About three months before the full production premieres, the cast is assembled to read through the play – which always results in a few revisions, as the writers work to fit words into people’s mouths.

Headwaters isn’t just people onstage telling and acting out stories.  It takes place in an environment that is designed to help tell the story, and, for 2009 and 2010, that design will be created by Lynn Jeffries, who has worked in communities all over the country on performances like Headwaters, as well as adaptations of classic plays – Romeo and Juliet in Port Gibson, Mississippi, for example, with a black Romeo and a white Juliet.  And the performers do more than speak and sing, they also move. Movement for Headwaters is created by Celeste Miller, who describes dance as “movement aware of itself” and is an expert at creating choreography that comes from stories and experiences. Being in Headwaters is athletic and challenging, which makes seeing Headwaters engaging and thrilling. It takes money to produce Headwaters, and the Sautee Nacoochee Community Association raises the funds each year to ensure that the professional artists get paid, that the sets get built and lights get hung, that there are posters and flyers and a web presence so that people know about the show. Funding for Headwaters: Birth, Death and Places In-Between has come from the National
Endowment for the Arts (your tax dollars at work), the Georgia Council for the Arts, and Alternate ROOTS through support from the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Several generous individual donors have made gifts that round out the budget of approximately $55,000 in cash, with lots of in-kind donations as well. When rehearsals begin in late May, the process begins to speed up and take shape quickly. Performers learn to move together, sing together, and create the world of the play in imaginative ways, all under the expert guidance of Gerard (Jerry) Stropnicky, who has more than 30 years of experience as a director, working with the Bloomsburg Ensemble Theatre in Pennsylvania (which he co-founded) as well as with several major community story plays – Swamp Gravy in Colquitt, GA and Higher Ground in Harlan, KY, for example.Over the course of six weeks, the performers learn all manner of new skills, and create a self-reliant community – if something goes wrong, there’s almost always someone to cover it. During the first year of Headwaters in 2007, two of the performers were volunteer firemen, which occasionally required impromptu understudies. Those first responders also came in very handy when a piece of scenery fell and injured a young performer – no need to call 911, since 911 was right there, wearing bear costumes.

By the end of the rehearsal process, the Headwaters company has become a family – a functional family, with a job to do. New friendships are born, boundaries of race and age and ability are crossed, because people have meaningful work that requires the concentration of all. And it’s a unique activity – no one else can make Headwaters but the people who are in SNCA’s Historic Gymnasium throughout June and July of each year.

The key component of any production is the audience, and inviting them – you – to take part in the production begins long before rehearsals start. Headwaters has a distinctive image, created by local artist Andy Slack with two vivid posters that depict life in these mountains. Word of mouth, group sales, internet marketing, posters in shop windows, announcements in the SNCA newsletter, ads on the radio, and lots of coverage from local newspapers and magazines all combine to let folks know that Northeast Georgia’s very own community story performance is happening – from July 8th to 25th, 2010.

The performances are an experience in themselves. Dinner is offered in the Center’s Community Hall before each show for an extremely reasonable price. The Historic Gymnasium is transformed into a performance and exhibit venue, with seating surrounding the stage and photographic and video exhibits in the public areas.

Some of the people who are in Headwaters do it for the applause. Being beloved by 175 people is an intoxicating thing. Others of the Headwaters company are in it because this place matters to them, and they have found a way to demonstrate that with their talents and gifts.  Still others are part of the production because of the community it builds – as rural people have always known, working side by side with folks is the best way to get to know them.  With all of these reasons operating onstage, Headwaters becomes more than just a show. It is a collective process of observation and understanding, as we come to know the people and creatures of this particular place, through the stories we tell of one another.

Audience members find Headwaters a very moving experience – “I laughed and I cried” is heard after every performance.  The play contains “wow” moments of real beauty, and singing that truly lifts the spirit. The performance style can take some getting used to – this isn’t television-slick, folks talk like they talk, and act like they act. We all know we’re being told stories, so it’s not like a movie that absorbs you in its visual world; in Headwaters audiences are asked to use their imagination. Together, performers and audience members create a shared image of a place they already know. 

When the production has run its course and the last performance is over, the set is “struck,” the seating dismantled, costumes and props stored, and the Historic Gymnasium returns to its all-purpose setting. The company of performers and technicians and still more volunteers share a great big pot-luck meal, and go home for some well-deserved rest. And planning for the next summer’s play begins.

Headwaters is a play that runs on a two-year cycle: a brand new script premiered in the summer of 2007, and was revised in the winter of 2008 and produced again, much improved, as part of SummerFest 2008. The first production is an exuberant experience, the second production is sublime. The second year gives the artists an opportunity to make good ideas really terrific. Headwaters Birth, Death and Places In-Between was created for the summer of 2009, and then revised and refined for the SummerFest performance in July of 2010.

is a performance, but more than that it is a team of people who want to work together to make something much larger than themselves about a place that matters. Many of the professional artists know and trust one another through their long association with Alternate ROOTS, a membership organization for community-based artists in the South (co-founded by Jo Carson).  Many of the community performers and professional artists worked together on Center Theatre productions of Putting it Together and are the creators of the irreverent cabaret Late Night Off-Center.  Many of the local participants attend church together. Nearly all have done something else with the Sautee Nacoochee Center at some point, but for some it was a return after many years away.

When the question is asked “How does Headwaters get made?” the answer is clear: an act of collective will.

Headwaters made possible by the generous financial and volunteer
contributions of many individuals and by funding from
National Endowment for the Arts
The Georgia Council for the Arts


Friday, July 8th
Cilantro Pesto Marinated Pork Loin
Smashed Red Potatoes
Fresh Peas
Cookie Dessert

Saturday, July 9th
Chili and Citrus Marinated Chicken
Red Beans and Rice
Fresh Tomatoes
Cookie Dessert

Sunday July 10th
Ginger Chicken Salad
Fresh Roasted Corn, Crispy Cucumber, Tomatoes
and Grilled Zucchini in a Citrus Vinaigrette
Cookie Dessert


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