New #HILLFIRE script to feature the works of the late Arnold Dyre


Donna Stewart said she has always loved reading his stories. Elizabeth Eldridge said the late Arnold Dyre had “a delightful sense of humor.”

“He could find humor in just about any situation,” Eldridge said. “He could tell a story so vividly, you would think you were actually experiencing it. I regret not having used his stories before now. It would have been interesting to see what kind of script we would have had if Arnold had been involved in writing it.”

Following the recent public reading of the 2017-18 Hill Fire script, residents enjoyed what will be the play, Knee Deep, based on “Home Is Where the Heart Is” and “Home Again” written by the late Arnold Dyre. The story, set in 1955, combines several of Arnold’s vivid memories of his family who lived in the Kilmichael area and later at Gore Springs. Characters in the story include Arnold Douglas; his sisters, Bettye Ann, Patricia, Sarah, and Mary Jo; his parents, Arnold and Daisy; his neighbors, Jim and Willie Moore; his friends, Clytee and Red Yates; and his mother’s family, Ruby, Frances, Ora, Jackie, Dink and Tommy. Also included is a short side story involving the character of Neely Trotter. The FALL Hill Fire Show will be October 7-8, 12 and 14. The Spring performance will be April 6,7 and 8.

Eldridge said she and Dyre had discussed using his stories in a script in passing, but never sat down to fully discuss it.

“It was just mentioned in passing during rehearsals for last year’s show,” Eldridge said. “I normally do script research in June and write in July. I was about to start working on the research when Arnold had his accident. I never got a chance to contact him about the script.”

Dyre passed away on June 12, 2017 from a heart attack following an automobile accident in Madison. Eldridge said she consulted with his family before moving forward with the play.

“I didn’t want to do so if it would cause them any more pain than they were already going through,” Eldridge said. “His sisters said they thought it would be a wonderful tribute to Arnold and they have been involved in editing the script.”

Eldridge said Arnold was a wonderful writer and because there was so much material in his books, she was able to write the entire play about his family.

“That is very unusual,” Eldridge said. “I usually have three separate storylines running that somehow tie in to a common theme.”

The only thing in this play that didn’t come from Dyre’s books are the scenes involving early Mississippi History, to commemorate the 200th birthday of the state of Mississippi.

“Something a little different in this script is that there are no deeply serious scenes,” Eldridge said. “Almost all of the script is upbeat and humorous. It also has a character who speaks directly to the audience. We haven’t done that in a long time.”

Names of persons he encountered in childhood are not changed in the play, “Knee Deep,” according to Carolyn Swanson, who attended the public reading. “Reading the play, I saw Hiram Davis, Jr. Donald Sultan, and the Mitchell twins, Bobbie and Billie. It makes it more personal since I have had some connection to these persons over the years. Arnold’s parents, sisters, and other family members and friends are characters in the play.”

Swanson said anyone knowing the Dyer family will enjoy this presentation.

“It brings to life Arnold’s childhood with his family and the setting that spawned Arnold’s creative mind,” Swanson said. “He grew up with a father who was a jokester which obviously had a lot of influence in Arnold’s way of turning the mundane into something memorable. He was a character in his adult life as so many are aware. His knack for storytelling was surely fostered by his experiences growing up.”

Learn more about this interesting Montgomery County character in this season’s Hill Fire productions. For more information and group tickets, contact the Montgomery County Arts Council at P.O. Box 644, Winona, MS 38967 or call (662) 283-3750 or (662) 310-0199; e-mail at hillfire@bellsouth.net; or check out our website at http://www.hillfire.org.

This article was published in the August 17, 2017 edition of The Winona Times.

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