Written by novelist and playwright Robert Inman, Liberty Mountain the Revolutionary Drama has come to King’s Mountain again this summer. Beneath the dazzle of lights and makeup in the theater is the carefully woven story of how our country fought for its independence.
The play is performed in North Carolina every year with Inman working right alongside of the director. It tells the story of men from Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas joining forces to stand against Major Patrick Ferguson of the British army. Known as a turning point in the Revolutionary War, the battle was a success for the southerners, and the British surrendered only a year later.
With live cannon fire and gunshots, the play is an immersive experience. The story unfolds through live action, song, and narration from the author. The cast even leaves the stage to perform in the aisles. Faith makes a major presence in the play, and there is a live baptism onstage.
Director Caleb Sigmon not only directed the play this year but also performs as a lead cast member. His performance combined with his ability to stage live combat makes the play come to life. Sigmon’s wife, Katy Sigmon, designed the costumes and has worked on other productions such as The Ugly Duckling and The Addams Family. This is the couple’s fourth year being involved in the performance, and they are excited to return.
Playwright Robert Inman grew up in Alabama and attended the University of Alabama until 1965, receiving an undergraduate degree in communications and an MFA in creative writing with a concentration in fiction. He launched his journalism career in the middle of the civil rights era, and Inman’s second novel Old Dogs and Children is about a small southern town during that period.
“A writer never throws away anything,” he said, “and I’ve used that.”
Inman says that he has seen the country, particularly the deep south, change, though he still believes we have a lot of progress to make. He said, “It affected me not just as a writer but as a person to see people battle for rights that should be guaranteed to them.”
Inman said, “an enormous amount of research” went into writing Liberty Mountain the Revolutionary Drama. There were two things that his audience needed from him: historical authenticity and entertainment. The details of the battle needed to be accurate, but more importantly, so did the intimate details of the lives of the people he was writing about, the immigrants from Ireland who settled the Carolinas and were prepared to die for their freedom.
His goal every year is for people to leave with the knowledge of what happened. “This is our fourth season,” Inman said, “and our audiences tell us we got it right.”
Now living in Boone, North Carolina with his wife, Inman has “lived in the South for 73 years.” I asked him how his experiences with the South have influenced his work. “Place becomes something of a character in my stories,” he said. “Where things happen to characters is vitally important. It explains who they are.”
While remaining true to place and its unique history is important in writing, Inman also seeks to write universality into his pieces. “I’ve had readers tell me ‘that could be my town in Iowa or California’ and ‘I recognize people in there.’”
The greatest education he received was not from the creative writing workshops in graduate school but from the great literature he read and analyzed. “I’ve read so much of southern history and literature,” he said. “The more of that you do, the more you absorb the feel of a place. You live part of it, and you read about other people who’ve lived it.”
We ended our interview with Inman’s telling me he’s in the process of writing a new novel. “I’m always working on something,” he said. A wonderful introduction to Inman’s work and his passion for Southern history is to go and see the play. You’ll walk away with a greater understanding of and empathy for the people who fought for our nation’s independence.
That’s something a textbook can never give you.