2010-03-17 / Society

All for the love of Swamp Gravy

Most people don’t look forward to a twice-weekly, four-hour drive. Most people don’t think of Thursday as their favorite day of the week. Most people aren’t Will Murdock.

Murdock, a 2009 Southwest Georgia Academy graduate, makes that four-hour trip twice a week. The reason he loves Thursdays is because that is the day he comes home. And why does he travel from Atlanta to Southwest Georgia every weekend? Swamp Gravy. To some, Swamp Gravy is an old-time fish gravy dish, but the Swamp Gravy that brings Will home is Georgia’s Official Folk- Life Play.

For 17 years, Colquitt has been producing Swamp Gravy, one of the first community performances of its kind. To create Swamp Gravy, volunteers go out into the community and gather local stories. Those stories are then transformed into a play, with music added by local songwriters, which is performed by upwards of 60 volunteer actors.

Murdock, who received the Rice Scholarship through Early County 2055, attends Georgia State University, in the heart of downtown Atlanta — which he says is “definitely a change from small town life.” The small town he refers to is Arlington, Ga., his home for most of his life. The past several years, however, he has spent much of his time in nearby Colquitt.

“I’ve had people tell me I’m crazy for making the drive every week, but to me, it’s worth it. Being at Cotton Hall means being with people I love. The cast and staff have definitely become part of my extended family and support me in everything — just like my real family does.” He jokingly adds, “It seems like I sleep in Arlington, visit Atlanta, and live in Colquitt.”

Will, aside from being a six-year cast member of Swamp Gravy, is also the resident youth theater director for Cotton Hall and assists in the marketing department.

He said, “It all started in 2007, when the Arts Council gave me the opportunity to direct “Peter Pan.” That was probably the craziest decision they ever made, but I’m so glad they did. They haven’t been able to get rid of me since. I’ve always been pretty creative, but Cotton Hall allowed me to actually put together a show. How many other 19-yearolds can say they’ve directed five full scale productions? Or staged their own script with actors who really wanted to make your idea come to life? I’m really lucky to have the support and resources I’ve found there.”

Early County school teachers Emily and Freddie Odom are also Swamp Gravy cast members. This spring will be the Odom’s second season in Swamp Gravy. Emily is a first grade teacher at Early County Elementary, and Freddie teaches sixth-grade world studies at the middle school. Odom said that he enjoyed Swamp Gravy, because, “The play brings people together and gives us all an outlet. I enjoy being a part of the cast because it is, above all else, a family. Besides, being a comic actor in my spare time is fun.”

Murdock and the Odoms are currently performing in Swamp Gravy: The Gospel Truth.

The show was first staged in Cotton Hall in 1995 and has been brought back due to popular demand. Preacher Jack is preachin’ the Ten Commandments with a soulful fire and his congregation is burning to tell how they’ve broken them. Swamp Gravy: The Gospel truth will be performed every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in March. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.swampgravy.com or by calling toll free 1- 800-514-3849.

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