ASHEBORO, N.C. — A new play showing at Asheboro’s Sunset Theatre hopes to do more than entertain. It’s making audiences think about race relations in their communities.
“Leaving Eden” was inspired by a song of the same title written by music director Laurelyn Dossett in 2004 about the closing textile mills in Eden, North Carolina.
Dossett worked with playwright Mike Wiley for the stage production of “Leaving Eden,” a story that’s much broader than a community’s identity when it comes to labor, but also embeds other themes including sociopolitical relationships and the concept of calling a place “home.”
“Everyone in North Carolina who thinks of North Carolina as home has their own idea of what home is, and maybe sometimes we have a hard time seeing people that we think are different than us seeing the same place as their home also,” she said.
“Leaving Eden” is based in the fictional North Carolina town of Marah.
We see the racial and social dynamics between different ethnic groups during different time periods.
There are often politically charged moments that will likely spark a response from the audience.
RhinoLeap Productions wanted the play in Asheboro – not only to start a broader conversation, but to also welcome diversity among theatre audiences.
“You listen to the show, or you watch the show and you have emotions, and those emotions in many ways bind you to the fellow sitting next to you who may be black or brown and that’s neat,” Executive Director Thomas Osteen said.
“You can’t live in a world in a vacuum where everybody’s agreeing with you because you never grow,” actor Phillip Bernard Smith said. “You don’t grow as an individual. You don’t grow as a theatre company. You don’t grow as a community. You don’t grow as a country.”
In many ways, Marah represents several towns in America – places that have a painful history, now trying to find a way not to repeat it.
“I take away the ability for different communities to come together and look out for each other,” actress Gabi Mayorga said.
“Leaving Eden” is showing through November 24. Tickets are available online or at Vintage Cottage located at 150 Sunset Ave. in Asheboro.