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‘Liberty!’ on the horizon

A scene from a past performance offers a glance at 'Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,' which will begin its 36th season this week at the Fort Watauga Amphitheater.

A scene from a past performance offers a glance at ‘Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,’ which will begin its 36th season this week at the Fort Watauga Amphitheater.

Liberty is coming to Elizabethton this Thursday.
Well, make that “Liberty!”
The 36th season of Tennessee’s signature outdoor drama “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals” opens for its limited annual run this week at the Fort Watauga Amphitheater.
Local performers tell the story of Sycamore Shoals in the late 18th century, when a series of events unfolded that proved critical — not only for local settlers, but for the future of the United States.
Taking center stage in the key role of John Carter will be Andy Hall, who survived his own skirmish with history to perform in “Liberty!” to play other roles before landing the Carter lead this year.
The 2014 season will feature the return of two relatively new favorites: Carter’s Trading Post and on two weekends, a Dinner Theater.
Carter’s Trading Post is named in honor of the original store opened by pioneers Carter and partner William Parker shortly after they arrived on the frontier in 1771. On July 18 and 19 and July 25 and 26, the dinner theater will offer a family style meal with a menu including turkey legs and pulled pork, corn on the cob, candied sweet potatoes, soup beans, cornbread, rolls, apple fritters, tea, soft drinks and water. Call Sycamore Shoals at 543-5808 for pricing.
Hall’s “Liberty” tale began with decidedly less ambitious aspirations.
“I joined the cast in 2008 with the intentions of being a walk on,” he said. “But the first night I was there, the director looked at me and said, ‘you would make a good Isaac Shelby.’ ”
That put a quick end to his thoughts of “trying things out” without a speaking role.
He survived, playing Shelby that year, then Robert Young from 2009 until last year.
Portraying Carter, a leader in the Watauga Settlement, is a key role: throughout the play, Carter’s carries the story from scene to scene.
“Liberty is very important to me,” Hall said. “I feel that we must continue to tell our story so everyone will know the importance of where they are from and will understand the importance of continuing to tell this story for many years to come.”
Carter and his family came to the Watauga Old Fields in 1772 and soon became a leader. When the Watauga Association was formed, Carter became chair of the new court. He commanded Fort Watauga during the July 1776 Cherokee attack and served in other leadership roles.
Carter is also known for his beautiful two-story home, near the banks of the Watauga River, which reflects the lifestyle of an affluent frontier family. It is now a satellite of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area.
Hall credits his inspiration to his middle school teacher, David Shankle, who “always mesmerized me as he taught Tennessee History. I imagined what life would have been like back during those times. He made it so interesting and would always bring out new things that would always garner my interest in history. He truly shares the same love for history as I do.”
Liberty! runs Thursdays through Saturdays, July 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26, in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton. Performances begin nightly at 7:30.
Tick­ets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 55 and over and $5 for children 6 and 7 years of age. Children 5 and under are admitted free. A $39 Family Cap Discount admission is being offered for immediate members of one family — parents and their children. Friends of Sycamore Shoals Members will be admitted for $6.
Veterans Night is Thursday, July 17, when veterans and one escort are admitted for free.
For more information, call the park at 543-5808.