“Lead Me to the Rock,” the Fall Hill Fire Production, will open Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Montgomery County Arts Center. The play is loosely based on the life of Eskridge native Rebecca Weed Patterson and her family and the life of Della Young and her family.
Young’s granddaughter LaToya Heard wrote “Honeysuckles and Sweet Tea” which features short stories about her life and the growing up.
The play, written and directed by Elizabeth Eldridge, intertwines the two stories of Patterson and Young, linking the two families together throughout the entire play. It takes a look back as Rebecca Patterson, played by Bootsie Weed, recalls stories of her life and growing up to reporter Susie James, played by Stephy Myers.
Eldridge said she and Steven Lester had written a play about Patterson in 2009, but it touched on Patterson’s life as a young girl. She said she went back and picked back up the play and presented it in a different light. Eldridge said she went back and did more research.
“We usually have two or three storylines going, but we always have them to make sense in the end,” Eldridge said. “I had this book LaToya Heard had written, I just didn’t know where to put it.”
She said she picked the book back up and began to read stories out of it, that’s how she connected the Weed and Young families.
“I set it back in the 1890s, and put Della as the midwife, of course, that didn’t happen,” Eldridge said. “I made it where the children would grow up together so that Hazel and Rebecca could be best friends.”
Patterson takes James down memory lane, beginning with the history of her family, her birth, her teenage and young adult years, played by Kaylan Goasa, her singing at the county fair and growing up with Hazel Young Knight, played by LaKeadra Coffey, as her best friend, losing her husband Jessie Patterson and ends with a surprise birthday party for Patterson who, in the play, turned 103 thrown by her daughter-in-law Leona Patterson, played by Gracie Kilburn.
“This time, I wanted Rebecca to actually tell the story herself,” Eldridge said.
The significance of the “the rock” is Rebecca’s journey to the rock on her birthday to show reporter Susie James the rock her brother Cooper Weed, played by Aidan Kilburn, carved his name into the day she was born.
The uniqueness of this play is Patterson’s niece Zanice Jenkins and great niece-in-law Bootsie Weed, along with Young’s daughter Hazel Knight are all in the play.
“I like it,” Jenkins said. She said seeing the play brought back nostalgia for her. “Aunt Rebecca was a really great person.”
Jenkins told stories of how Patterson loved working in her garden, going over to her aunt’s home to eat and more. Weed’s husband Alan is Patterson’s great nephew. For the two of them, it’s a walk down memory lane.
For Knight, it’s a different feeling. “It’s an honor to get to play my mom,” she said. “My mom has Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I wish she could see the play for herself. But, just knowing the play is about my mom is an honor. I told them(my family) someone had to do it, so I stepped up to the plate.”
There’s one part of the play that is similar stories that Eldridge uses to connect the two families. In the play, Hazel’s family receives the land for their new church and the land is adjacent to Rebecca’s home. In reality, Patterson actually gave the land to Wilmont Baptist and it is adjacent to her home.
Knight’s family has a similar story.
“My dad and uncles gave the land for our church, Young’s Chapel,” she said.
Eldridge said when Knight’s sister Annette and her niece LaToya read the part of the church, they wondered how she knew about it. But, Eldridge said she had no idea.
“I just connected the two through the story,” she said, adding she had no idea it actually happened. But, it’s moments like this that Knight holds dear to her heart.
“If my mom could be herself, you’d see a totally different woman,” she said. “She could do anything.”
Usually, after every show, Eldridge said the cast does “I Remember You” in the middle of “Amazing Grace.” But, for “Lead me to the Rock,” the cast will do “I Honor You” for Young.
“Lead me to the Rock” will open 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Performing Arts Center on Summit Street in Winona. The show will run, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7 p.m. Oct. 7, Thursday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 13. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students.