Made Not Bought
By Laura Donaldson and Peter Newman
Music by Ruthie King
Directed by Angelyn Rhode
Princess Theatre, Sanford FL
I think this is the true heart of Community Theatre – local stories, local talent, and a production that mixes brilliance and pathos with awkward moments of heartfelt writing. One hundred years ago Sanford was a Big Deal – ships came up the St. Johns River, the local Luxembourgian Celery supplied roughage to America, and sharecropping blacks bailed out of Georgia to move to the area. The racism wasn’t that different but the pay was better and you could shop your labor to the highest bidder.
I missed the first incarnation of this local history exercise, but this second take is worth the drive up I-4. There’s somewhere north of 40 people on stage, all are locals and none are professional actors. They stumble from time to time but their triumphs make this as personal a snap shot as you’ll find. After the open Laugh-In style sequence of celery jokes and corny humor, we experience a series of vignettes that capture a memory of era gone by. The strongest segments were the ones dealing explicitly with the demise of Jim Crow. In particular, there’s a scene of a share cropping family sneaking out of rural Georgia – in their clever foam core truck they run the Underground Railroad in reverse and escape to economic freedom further south. Did they get out and how did they do down here? Another powerful tale introduces a woman never learned to swim because the town fathers preferred to destroy both the black and white pools in town rather than allow blacks to swim with whites.
Other elements of the show were more whimsical: we meet a man who lived on nothing but fried baloney and Karo syrup, a woman who buys the old fire house complete with ghost, and tails of kids hanging out in the Celery Crate, dancing and playing board games in the back of city hall. That was hot stuff back then. Only one scene didn’t work, it was a montage of jokes about Cleveland. How that tied in defeated me, and it wasn’t very funny. But those are nits, Celery Soup is a great piece of folk lore and found material pulled into a cohesive whole complete with music by local composer Ruthie King. You can tell the kids how hot the vinyl seats were was when you were their age, or you can take them to this show and let them experience it themselves.
For tickets and other information please visit http://www.celerysoupsanford.com/