“Hill Fire: Knee Deep” based on the stories of the late Arnold DyreBy GWEN SISSON,
This weekend, the Montgomery County Arts Council will present a special play inspired by the life of a special man.
“Knee Deep” is a story based on Home Is Where the Heart Is and Home Again - two books written by Arnold Douglas Dyre. This is a fun-loving play about Dyre’s memories of growing up in rural Mississippi and his vivid recollections of a mischievous young boy as he finds his place in a world filled with four sisters.
“Knee Deep” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with Sunday matinee set for 2 p.m. at the Montgomery County Performing Arts Center.
Last year, Arnold Dyre passed away. He was a familiar face with many Hill Fire fans. He played various roles in the past few years. He was also a prolific writer and the Spring Hill Fire program is inspired by his book and his weekly columns in The Grenada Star newspaper.
“Arnold Dyre had a natural talent when it came to storytelling,” said Nanette Laster, editor of The Grenada Star. “What he did best, I think, was to tell his stories so they related to others of his generation. Those of us who grew up in ‘Smalltown, Miss.,’ could relate to childhoods of simple times and things — like fishing for fun or climbing the big hill at Duck Hill. Arnold was truly gifted, and we miss that gift.”
Paula McCaulla of the Montgomery County Arts Council said she was a life-long friend of Dyre.
“He and I attended Vacation Bible School at Nations Baptist Church when we were youngsters,” McCaulla said. “He was a joy to work with in Hill Fire and always so witty.”
Bonnie Corley Locke said she always loved his columns in the Grenada paper.
“I did not know him personally, but through his columns I felt like I did,” Locke said. “He felt like a member of the family. I grieved for him when he lost his wife. I was happy for him when he seemed to be coming out of the darkness. I really miss his columns.”
Elizabeth Eldridge, chief writer of the original Hill Fire play, said she had discussed incorporating some of Dyre’s stories in the annual play, but the timing was never right. When Dyre passed last year, the group decided it was the perfect time to honor their friend.
“This play has such special meaning,” Eldridge said. “Writing it was a labor of love for this man and his family. He had so many adventures during his lifetime and wrote about them so vividly that bringing his words to life was nearly effortless.”
Eldridge said she hopes that” this is not the last that we’ll see of Arnold Douglas and his delightful family. There are so many more stories to tell.”
Last fall, Eldridge said they were blessed to be introduced to a very talented young man who came on board with Hill Fire for the very first time to take on the lead role of Arnold Douglas Dyre.
“Peyton Willoughby has taken the character of Arnold Douglas and made it his,” Eldridge said. “He has literally stolen the hearts of his fellow cast members. And during this run, Peyton is having the time of his life sharing the stage with his father, Timothy Willoughby.”
“We have many talented comedians in this cast who have such perfect timing and the ability to drive a punch line,” Eldridge said.
Among the cast members this spring includes: Stevie Myers, Bootsie Weed, Kimberly Wilkerson, Carolyn Swanson, Sara Evans, Olene Boggan, Vanessa Miller, Grant Wilson and Dan Myers. The cast also includes a fantastic group of young people. Leigh Ansley, Gracie Kilburn, Santania Newman, Vivian Avant, Ty’Landis Newman, Aiden Kilburn, and Addi Wade. And bringing the rooster to life, Payton Avant, and the chickens, Alexis Armstrong, Riley Armstrong, Riley Brook Rainey, and Anna Franklin.
For tickets and/or additional information, contact the Performing Arts Center at (662) 310-0199.