Hard working volunteers are getting the set ready for The Backlot Players’ first production of 2021, “Smoke on the Mountain”. Pictured, left to right are Rachel Hunter, Elizabeth Hunter, Matt Robichaux and “Drill Instructor” Nipper Bunn. (Photo/Dennis Smith)

Hard working volunteers are getting the set ready for The Backlot Players’ first production of 2021, “Smoke on the Mountain”. Pictured, left to right are Rachel Hunter, Elizabeth Hunter, Matt Robichaux and “Drill Instructor” Nipper Bunn. (Photo/Dennis Smith)

“Smoke on the Mountain” opens on Friday, Jan. 29th at The Rose…A Special Tribute Performance to Paulyne Stokes

Paulyne O’ Hara Stokes was a lifetime member of the Backlot Players and The Rose Theater.  Paulyne provided inspiration, encouragement, and much needed financial support to the organization from its inception until her death August 28, 2019.  

Her beloved husband, Wayne, to whom she was married for 52 years, once managed The Rose when it was a movie house. Perhaps because of Wayne’s earlier connection, or her own love of the arts and entertainment, she felt it fitting to honor his memory by being a mainstay in the Backlot Players’ efforts to refurbish and restore the theater in 2004 and make it a vital part of the community over the next 15 years. 

Paulyne, along with daughter Sheryl, son Steve and their families, typically sponsored the annual summer musical, and they were always front and center on opening nights offering their support. 

Each summer Paulyne and Sheryl would assist close family friend Rhett McMurray in organizing and staging Backlot’s annual Community Appreciation event. Paulyne made sure that all guests felt welcomed and appreciated.She was an avid theatergoer and willing volunteer who delighted in handing out the Playbills and greeting each patron personally.  She wanted all of Monroe County to love The Rose as she did.

Two lasting gifts that Paulyne and family made to The Rose were the massive stage curtains that add so much to the ambience of the theater and the Green Room, which was added to the rear of the building in 2009 as a place for the actors to change costumes, have restroom facilities and wait in between their appearances on stage.

Rhett McMurray and fellow Backlot members confirmed that “Smoke on the Mountain” was one of Paulyne’s favorite plays. The Backlot Players open 2021 with a presentation of this special production dedicated to the memory of Paulyne Stokes. 

Paulyne loved this story, its message and music. Its spirit of an old-time Gospel Sing might be just what is needed to get this New Year started in the right direction. Paulyne would have been 90 on Jan. 27, just two days prior to the scheduled opening for “Smoke on the Mountain.”  

Join those who are at The Rose to salute Ms. Paulyne for some Bluegrass music, old-time gospel singing, handclapping, laughter, and tears.


The Church Needs a Pastor 

Tullye Ralph, director of  “Smoke on the Mountain,” is very familiar with this play. Tullye directed “Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming” in 2009.  Plus, she played the role of Vera Sanders when she lived at Amelia Island, Florida with her husband, Alan Ralph. 

“This time it has been vastly different. I precast the show, which meant I picked actors without having auditions. I knew which local actors had been in an earlier production so I could get a head start on them knowing their lines.  I thought I was in great shape,” commented Tullye. “Little did I know that my lead person would take a consulting job that required travel, my funny-girl who made the show so enjoyable with her well-timed humor would be working full-time, and my Preacher did not want to preach.”

Tullye has been directing plays at The Rose for a over decade. She has directed numerous successful plays including “Gypsy,” “Happy Days,” “Back to the 80’s” and “The Addams Family.”

 “Never have I had this kind of challenge,” lamented Ralph. “I finally found an actor, Joey Webb, to portray the young pastor.  Joey lives in Byron. He is a great example of commitment as he travels over 100 miles roundtrip each night for rehearsals. The entire cast is super. You will enjoy the play, and Paulyne would be proud.”


The Travelling Gospel Singers

Pastor Oglethorpe, portrayed by Joey Webb, is new to the little church in the Smokey Mountains and wants to promote an evening of fun and fellowship with his congregation.  Church Gospel Sings were common in the South in the 30’s-60’s. The local pastor would organize a special service featuring an out-of-town gospel group as the main attraction. 

This service was aimed at rejuvenating the congregation and attracting some new attendees to the church.  Plus, it was an opportunity to raise some extra funds, and solidify the pastor’s role with the church. It needed to be a celebration.  

Dedicated Christian families with a modicum of musical talent and a penchant for entertaining often took advantage of this need and formed singing groups. Customarily these family singers travelled all around the region to perform. The Sanders Family Singers were such a fictional group.Family patriarch Burl and wife Vera and family members Dennis, Denise, Stanley, and June made the trip to Mount Pleasant, North Carolina to be the main attraction in Pastor Oglethorpe’s special gospel sing.  

Excitement broke out along the way when the family saw pickles floating down Mount Pleasant’s river.  Fun breaks out when Pastor Oglethorpe tries to explain why his star attractions are missing. A great evening of entertainment is underway. 

Don’t miss this tribute to Ms. Paulyne and great production of “Smoke on the Mountain.” Performances are January 29, 30 February 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m., and matinees on January 31 and February 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available through www.ticketstothecity.com. 


Your Personal Safety Comes First

The Backlot Players follow strict guidelines to ensure that COVID recommendations for group gatherings are followed. The Rose Theater is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before each performance. 

Seating within the theater has been modified for Social Distancing in groups. Audiences are limited to 50 persons per performance and all tickets are general admission. A seating chart is provided to make sure all patrons will be distanced.  Doors open at 7p.m. for evening performances and 2 p.m. for Matinees.   Patrons must wear masks.  Sanitizing stations are available throughout the facility.  For more details visit www.thebacklotplayers.org 


Dennis Smith writes “Monroe Entertains You,” highlighting the entertainment fare offered in Monroe County and the people who make it possible. Smith wants Forsyth to realize and support the riches it has in the cultural arts.