The year is 1935. The place: a mountain cabin in an unspecified part of Appalachia. The players are subsistence farmer Jesse Schofield, his wife Susie, his daughter Lizzie, and his cantankerous mother-in-law Granny Thomas. Enter Lizzie’s suitor, Orren Sparks.
The Artistic Community Theatre of Pekin invites the public to meet “The Real Feller” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday or at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Pekin Union Mission Auditorium, 203 Court St.
Dennis Peacock, a Pekinite who is directing the production and will play the role of Jesse Schofield, also wrote the play. He described the show as a comedic drama about family value and people staying together through tough times. In writing “The Real Feller,” he narrowed his focus to one evening in the life of one Appalachian family. The geographic setting could be anywhere from eastern Ohio to northern Georgia.
“It doesn’t matter where in Appalachia the play takes place, because the hardscrabble rural experience in the 1930s was pretty much the same everywhere,” said Peacock. “Poor Appalachian farmers weren’t jumping from 15-story buildings during the Depression because they lost their fortunes. They never had fortunes to start with. They were already so poor, they didn’t even know the rest of the country was in a Depression.”
Peacock’s inspiration in writing “The Real Feller” came from a fusion of his own imagination and the experiences of people he has met. Having grown up in Virden, a farming and mining community south of Springfield, he was also able to bring his own firsthand knowledge of a hardscrabble rural existence to bear on his project.
“It was just a story in my head that wanted to come out,” said Peacock. “Isn’t that what most stories are? The people in the play are named after people I’ve known. The Schofields, for example, lived down the street from my family. And because I grew up in the country, I know country people.”
Before writing “The Real Feller,” Peacock enhanced a play titled “We, the People,” for the Caterpillar Employees’ Mixed Chorus, of which he was a member. He has also written several skits for the Pekin Artistic Community Theatre to perform before the Pekin Chamber of Commerce. Last December, he wrote a comedic holiday skit for the Theatre involving an elf strike at the North Pole and Kris Kringle’s ill-fated effort to set his reindeer to toy-making. He cautioned that “The Real Feller” contains frank language that may be unsuitable for younger viewers but believes that people coming to see the play will enjoy it.
“It’s funny, it’s dramatic and it’s got a little bit of everything,” said Peacock. “It’s an entertaining play. It takes people back to the good old days, when things really weren’t so good but were a lot simpler. Family was important, and people stayed together.”
Joining Peacock on the stage at the Pekin Union Mission Auditorium will be Sharron Santure as Susie, Nona Buster as Granny Thomas, Molly Romersberger as Lizzie and Don DeGroot III as Orren. Tickets are $12 and can be obtained by visiting http://our.show/artisticcommunitytheatre/4698. Refreshments will be available during intermission.