The Gift Musical Celebrates Cleveland Bradley County Public Library's Past

  • Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Cleveland Bradley County Public Library is celebrating 100 years. As part of their Centennial events they are presenting a musical play The Gift…. And Those Who Gave. Admission to the three performances is free with a library card on Friday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 21, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The shows will be held at the Lee University Dixon Center Theatre.

The comedy and drama is written and directed by Cleveland native Connie Gatlin. This musical play combines humor and music with the stories of the people who have populated Cleveland Bradley County Public Library’s past, and who have left a legacy for each and every one of us.

The leading characters of the play are the women who did most of the gifting. The sons of Sarah Tucker Johnston gave the Craigmiles house to the city of Cleveland for the purpose of housing a library for the community. Audiences will see and hear Sarah tell her story and give her personal perspective on her life in Cleveland.

Another prominent woman in the history of the library is Clyde Johnston Hardwick, granddaughter of Sarah Tucker Johnston. Mrs. Clyde, as she was affectionately called, made the donation allowing for the building of the history wing of the original library. Now known as the History Branch, the history addition still serves the community for research and as a repository for historic photographs.

It was Joe Corn Stuart, the beloved daughter of local historian Col. James F. Corn, who made the gift of the Jarnagin house, located between Ocoee and Church streets (which is now the site of the current library). The Jarnagin home belonged to Joe’s Aunt Adella and was given to the city for the express purpose of becoming the much-needed expansion of our local library.

According to Director Connie Gatlin, the play combines these persons of our past with literary characters who appeared in well-known books of the last 100 years. An appearance of Winnie the Pooh, whose story was published in 1926 occurs early in the play, with other highlights from heroine Scarlett O’Hara (1936) and Atticus Finch (1960) and a charming cowboy-philosopher created by Louis L’Amour in 1985.

“The literary characters that are known all over the world interact with our local persons of history creating a connection and a relevance to our hometown library and our hometown story. It’s our story...it’s about us...and it’s a story worth the telling,” said Ms. Gatlin.

Featuring many outstanding performers, artistic creators, and designers, the play will be presented in the Lee University Dixon Center Theatre located at 1053 Church St. in Cleveland on Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21. Admission to the production will be a hometown library card. Library cards will be issued at the door of the theatre. The Cleveland Bradley County Public Library will also accept donations.

“We have enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library’s 100th Birthday. We have hosted many special Centennial events all year and look forward to offering the theatrical performances so our community can learn more about the history of our local library,” said Library Director, Andrew Hunt.

For more information about Cleveland Bradley County Public Library’s complimentary theatrical presentation of The Gift and additional Centennial events please visit https://clevelandlibrary.org/100-year-birthday-celebration.

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