Goin' South 

South is a powerful drama about extreme conflicts -- war and peace, North and South, male and female, black and white and God’s will versus Man’s will.

It was written 51 years ago by playwright Julian Green, who had connections to Savannah. Green’s family lived in Savannah in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It was the Green family that built the historic Green-Meldrim House. Green’s family moved to Paris where he was born in 1900.

Although Green is not well-known in the United States, his work is highly acclaimed throughout Europe. He was the author of several novels, including an epic novel of the antebellum South, The Distant Lands.

Green also wrote journals, essays and plays. He died in Paris on Aug. 13, 1998, at the age of 97. His writing career spanned more than 70 years.

Written in 1953, South will have its Southern premiere in Savannah on Sept. 17, 18 and 19 at the Lucas Theatre. The play has been produced in the United States just one other time, at a theater in Brooklyn.

The only American member of the Academie Francaise, Green also was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His cousin, Walter Hartridge, still lives in Savannah and is acting as the historical consultant for the production.

The play is set on a plantation near Charleston on April 11, 1861 -- the night before the Civil War began in Charleston Harbor.

The play will be presented by the Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina to raise money for the Telfair Museum of Art, the Historic Savannah Foundation and the Coastal Heritage Society.

The Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina is a professional company. The play will feature film and television veterans Clarence Felder and Chris Weatherhead, along with professional actors Trevor Erickson and Christina Rhodes.

Weatherhead, the artistic director of the Actors’ Theatre, is co-director of the production. She also will play the role of Mrs. Strong, the plantation owner’s sister.

“For a play to have such extraordinary writing and not to have had a production in the Southern United States is a splendid surprise for us,” Weatherhead says. “The play is very profound and wildly romantic, but it’s filled with wry humor and great characters all at the same time.”

Felder, the co-founder of the Actors’ Theatre, plays Edward Broderick, the owner of the plantation. “We’re thrilled to be doing such a magnificent play,” he says.

“It’s the kind all actors love performing,” Felder says. “I’m from the South, but I have never encountered any story on my homeland written like this -- hard-hitting, beautifully poetic and deeply human all at once. We have stumbled on a lost literary treasure.”

Nick Smith is co-director of the play and also the cinematographer for some augmentative filmed sequences. He is the former director of the Scottish Film School.

“The filmed sequences are married to the setting in a beautiful way and will provide a rich psychological texture to the poetic aspects of Mr. Green’s writing,” Smith says. “We will be shooting in various locations in the Lowcountry.”

Weatherhead says the Actors’ Theatre has received lots of support. “We have extraordinary partners in this wonderful project,” she says.

“The Telfair Museum of Art is the oldest public museum in the South,” Weatherhead says. “Its collection of over 4,500 works of art includes two National Historic Landmark buildings -- the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Owens-Thomas House.

“The Historic Savannah Foundation has been one of the nation’s leading preservation organizations for almost 50 years,” she says. “It was chartered in 1955 to preserve Savannah’s architectural heritage.

“And the Coastal Heritage Society is dedicated to preserving the cultural and natural heritage of the coastal area,” Weatherhead says.

South was written in Paris and was premiered in England in 1955. Renowned British actor Denholm Elliott starred in the English version, while film actress Anouk Aimee starred in the Parisian version.


The Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina’s production of South will be presented Friday, Sept. 17 and Saturday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 19 at 3 p.m. at the Lucas Theatre. Tickets are $25 and $20. Student tickets are $15. Group rates are available. For information or to order tickets, call the SCAD Box Office at 525-5050.


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Linda Sickler

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