The Potter’s Wheel spins again in Itawamba County

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Just as their namesake implies, The Potter’s Wheel has spun around again.

Itawamba County-based storytelling group The Potter’s Wheel: Folk Tales of the Bigbee Valley will return to the stage this September with a new collection of dramatized stories from around the area.

Since the group’s first show last September, members have been conducting interviews with Itawambians throughout the county. The goal: To archive the story of Itawamba County as told by the people who lived it. The interviews are being sent to The University of Southern Mississippi, where they are being archived as part of the university’s Center for Oral History.

Locally, parts of the interviews are being scripted by group members and transformed for performance as a series of vignettes for the second production of The Potter’s Wheel, currently planned for September 8.

According to San McLeod, Project Director for The Potter’s Wheel, the new show will follow the same basic format as the 2011 show: A pre-show featuring folk art by The Pioneer Group, dulcimer players, an art show, a pottery display and a reception. Instead of last year’s talent revue — which featured performances from a myriad of Itawamba County residents — this year’s program will feature more vignettes.

This year’s event will feature two showings: A matinee at 2 p.m. and an evening performance at 6 p.m.

Last year’s event was a considerable success, garnering a sold-out crowd and more than $2,800 in funds to further the group’s efforts. McLeod said she hopes this year’s show will be even more popular.

“Our show last year was phenomenal,” she said. “The art work and pottery on display was done by local artists and wowed the people who attended. We expect this year’s show to be even better because of the variety of stories that will be told through the vignettes.”

“We have collected some interesting stories from our interviews,” said Ginger Conner, another of the group’s founders. Some of those stories, she said, might really surprise those in attendance.

“We think the audience will be amazed to learn some things that have gone on in our county,” Conner said.

According to McLeod, work on the September show is going well, with several of the group’s members currently scripting the stories that have been collected. Currently, the group is focusing its efforts on raising the funds necessary to actually produce the show.

“We will be doing some fundraisers between now and September to help with expenses of renting sound and lighting equipment,” McLeod explained.

In order to raise funds, the group plans to sell ice cream during August’s Stand By Your Grill BBQ Championship in Fulton.

Additionally, the group is currently selling chances on a handmade quilt that will be raffled off during September’s evening performance. The quilt is on display at First American National Bank in Fulton. Tickets may be purchased there at the bank, at the Itawamba County Development Council Office in downtown Fulton, Bean’s Ferry Pottery, Midway Marina or from members of the group.

According to McLeod, the storytelling tradition serves an important role in the preservation of history. It’s been that way since the dawn of time.

“For thousands of years, the role of the storyteller has been to educate, entertain and enchant listeners, young and old,” McLeod said. “Storytelling celebrates the wisdom and diversity of human experience, often using music, movement and drama to engage listeners.

“The Potter’s Wheel: Folk Tales of the Bigbee Valley seeks to bring that experience to Itawamba County by employing this powerful art form including folktales, legends and personal stories taken from the history of Itawamba County,” she added. “The potter takes a little clay, mixes it with a little water and creates a beautiful object of art; The Potter’s Wheel: Folk Tales of the Bigbee Valley takes some stories, mixes them with a little music and creates a beautiful show.”

adam.armour@journalinc.com