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    Tom Dooley : A Wilkes County Legend

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    Event description

    This summer, the infamous tale of the murder of Laura Foster and the subsequent hanging of Tom Dooley, a gripping saga of love and betrayal, returns to the stage at Benton Hall in North Wilkesboro, NC  where it all began in 2001.The play premiered to sold out audiences that year and then became an annual production in Wilkes county, NC where the tale took place after the Civil War. After seven years, the play  was produced by Bleu Moon Productions and traveled to various venues including Fort Hamby Park on Kerr Scott Lake in Wilkes county and The Ashe Civic Center. 

    Tom Dooley was tried in federal court in Statesville, NC and afterwards was hanged there in 1869. After a three year absence due the pandemic, the story graced the Mac Gray Auditorium stage in Statesville in 2023 through a partnership with Center Stage Alliance, featuring a blend of performers from Wilkes and Iredell Counties.  Additionally, excerpts from the script were presented in a special event titled “The Tom Dooley Project” for 2 seasons  in Statesville. The courtroom scene garnered attention at events such as The Department of NC Tourism and Film's annual meeting in Greensboro, where it sparked discussions about the circumstantial evidence surrounding Dooley's conviction.

    The play holds special significance for the playwright  Karen Wheeling Reynolds who grew up in the Elk Creek/Darby community of southwest Wilkes where the story took place. She grew up hearing the story of Tom Dooley’s love triangle with Laura Foster and Ann Melton. Her script for the play was shaped through storytelling sessions with Edith Marie Carter, a life-long resident of  Ferguson and founder of the renowned Whippoorwill Academy, who urged  Reynolds to claim ownership of the narrative, saying, "This is your story - you tell it."

    This summer “Tom Dooley a Wilkes County Legend” will come full circle through a partnership of Bleu Moon Productions and the Wilkes Playmakers to the Benton Hall stage where it all began twenty-three years ago. Reynolds said “ I am thrilled to bring Tom Dooley back to Benton Hall because I wrote the the play for that stage. I know every inch of that stage and every entrance and exit.” She added “ plus the stage is in a beautiful historic 1913 building, the old  North Wilkesboro School.”

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