The daughter of a preacher man. Born in Louisville, Ky. while her daddy was completing his education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Tulley Burch spent growing-up years in some delightful Georgia towns while her daddy was pastoring different churches. Then, in the 1950’s Dr. John B. Burch and wife Shirley moved the family to Forsyth where he became pastor of First Baptist Church and Tullye found a home. A place that has captured her heart and soul.
Tullye Burch did not spend her entire life in Forsyth. After graduating from Mary Persons, she was off to Georgia Southern where she earned a BS in English Education and Music Education. She married her college sweetheart and they settled in Conyers, where they raised a daughter, Dawn, and Tullye taught in the local high school. After her husband died, life and fate took her to St. Marys, where she taught English and music.
Time passed and while teaching school in St. Marys, Tullye became involved with the community Chorale at Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach, Fla. She assisted with the music for a large production being staged at the local theater. It was there that Tullye met Alan Ralph, who persuaded her to become a member of the theater troupe. Ultimately, they married and in 2007, Tullye came back home to Forsyth and brought Alan and their love for theater with her. Tullye has been Music Director for the Backlot Players since 2008.
“I tell you this is going to be the death of me. My nerves are at a breaking point. I mean ‘Footloose…The Musical’ has 21 songs. Twenty-one songs that we have had to learn and there are 41 people in the cast,” lamented Tullye while talking about the newest musical to be presented by the Backlot Players. “And we are opening on Friday night, July 22.”
Forty plus years of teaching music, coupled with 20-plus years of community theater involvement as either an actor, director, musician or music director have taught Tullye that the songs will get learned and that the show will go on. Still, she is quite aware that the task of getting the cast ready to shine often comes down to the last week of rehearsals. “After all these years, I know that it takes several months for 41 people to become a well-polished cast of actors. Yet, the folks always come through,” said Tullye, “But I still worry a little anyway. The unique challenge of directing a musical is that the actors have to bring the personality of the character they are playing into the songs they sing. We are not trying to have a choir of blended voices. We want our lead actors to own their songs and this often takes a good bit of extra work.”
Tullye explained that when The Backlot Players present a musical they will have a managing director for the play as well as a musical director. Since Footloose is loaded with dance routines, it also has a choreographer. Marion McDougall is managing director and Kim Pitman is handling the choreography. It is not unusual to have the vocals practiced separate from the dancing; so as we near the end of our rehearsals we put it all together and say a little prayer that the pieces will turn out to be one great production. “This specialized approach toward practicing takes extra time and often causes some nervous moments for the directors before we blend the pieces together,” added Tullye. “But the final product has always been very good and well received by our audiences.”
Tullye is a musical mainstay in the community. In addition to her involvement with the Backlot Players, she teaches private piano lessons, serves as the church pianist at Russellville Baptist Church, and sometimes “fills-in” for Glenn Gregg in leading the singing at First Baptist Church. Tullye is the proud grandmother of Stephen Swain, who is pursuing his dream of becoming a professional musician, and Hannah Williams, who is a student at Georgia Southern with plans to become a CPA. (Author’s note: Tullye’s beloved husband Alan Dorr Ralph passed away on Feb. 17, 2015. Alan is greatly missed by both his personal and Backlot families as well as the entire community.)
FOOTLOOSE…The Musical is packed with upbeat finger-snapping 1980’s rock and roll music including the title song popularized by Kenny Loggins. The story takes us to a small mid-western town where dancing has been banned by the local preacher who is trying to exercise control over the town’s youth that he cannot command in his own home. When his rebellious daughter sets her sights on the new kid in town, all sorts of excitement breaks loose. ‘Footloose…The Musical’ runs Friday and Saturday, July 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 24 and 31 at 2:30 p.m. at The Rose Theater, Forsyth. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and active military. The Box Office is open two hours prior to show time. Visit www.thebacklotplayers.org or call 478-994-0443.