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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lanterns and Legends: Art and tradition born in the Navasota cemetery

The first Lanterns and Legends living history event has been a resounding success, blessed by vigorous attendance, perfect weather and inspiration from Navasota's rich heritage.

The Navasota Theater Alliance, Co-Directed by Earlene Rainey and Mavis Anderson, shaped a poignant event around the magnificent surroundings at Oakland Cemetery, a historic Victorian era burial ground draped by great moss-laden oaks as old as the souls buried among their roots.

Earlene Rainey makes a very convincing portrayal of a southern belle who lost almost everything and everyone during the difficult era of the Civil War and the Yellow Fever epidemics afterwards.

It does not take much effort to imagine the compelling impact this backdrop offers, combined with authentically garbed characters who come out of the darkness to shed wonderful light on their lives and times.

Steve Haley does a great La Salle.

The ubiquitous Steve Haley, so often the clutch hitter for the NTA team, once again comes through with an inspired interpretation of the wandering ghost of  Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle, the French hero killed by his men while hiking across Texas. Legend has it he was buried in an unmarked grave, and the ghost of La Salle finds comfort among the other European adventurers buried in nearby Navasota.

Mayor Bert Miller becomes Texas' first itinerant Methodist missionary, Martin Ruter, who died on mission.

This is the best of living history as it makes a thoughtful tribute to many of Navasota's intrepid pioneers. This year the theme was travellers who ended up in Navasota, from the ill-fated explorer La Salle to the original town founder Judge Nolan, both of whom are met as they search the cemetery for their graves, never to be found. 

Teri Gerst
Teri Gerst delivers the heartbreaking testimony of Jane Levy, the longsuffering wife of Navasota's most prominent Jewish merchant, Meyer Levy. Her saga provokes a new found respect for what our ancestors did to establish civilization in the wilderness. 

My neighbor Steve Gochenour played the part of Judge Nolan, the man who first camped at the crossroads he called Nolanville... "I can't find my grave!"

German born emigrant Ferdinand Brosig (Gary Anderson) explains his philosophy of retail business. His family left Germany to escape the ravages of war only to end up fighting in the American Civil War.

A doctor, a mother and housewife, a Methodist missionary, a merchant, a mechanic, even a famous blues singer are found at dusk, contemplating their graves, and trying to explain or rationalize their lives and their deaths. 

Oscar Coe was a car mechanic and hotel operator. He has a mysterious story about a long cool woman in a black dress...
Several brought their struggles from Europe, others from other states. All died too soon. Eight souls who rest in our history reach from the grave to connect with passers by, making an extraordinary leap to remind us of their trials and accomplishments.

Bluesman Mance Lipscomb, played by his grandson Jimmy Lipscomb, tells how he changed his name to Emancipation, and played his way into the hearts of music lovers all over the world. He may have been famous but he still had to work hard to support his huge family... as a farmer and lumberman and finally as a performer.
Spooky? Heck yea, it was great! But the characters make their point. The struggle of life is about work, faith and relationships. 

Dr. Kilpatrick tells of horrors and heroism on the frontier during the Yellow Fever epidemics.
And if we are wise, our struggle includes seeking and learning from those who have gone before. Many thanks to the NTA and congratulations for the beginning of a long-awaited tradition with heart, that reminds us of who we are... or can be.


  1. This was one of the most professional and interesting performances I've
    seen! Thanks to all actors and volunteers who helped make this possible. Can't wait for the next in 2014.

  2. Sounds spectacular. Please let me know the dates for next year.