'Trail of the Lonesome Pine' gets funding to visit schools

Mike Still • Feb 16, 2020 at 8:30 PM

BIG STONE GAP — After 56 seasons of performances in Big Stone Gap, “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine “outdoor drama will take to the roads of Wise County and Norton this year.

Appalachian Arts and Crafts, Inc., the organization overseeing the drama’s production, announced the award of a $7,500 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation to help start a school outreach program with the Wise County and Norton school systems.

The grant will help set up a small touring ensemble to perform short plays for fifth- and sixth-grade U.S. history classes in both school divisions.

“Our goal is to be historically accurate with period costumes and music, with lots of humor to make it a memorable learning experience for the students,” said “Trail” artistic director Ryan Tackett Wardell, a Wise County Schools graduate.

Tackett Wardell will oversee the program along with Jim Wardell, general manager of the drama’s June Tolliver Playhouse in Big Stone Gap.

Once the “Trail” completes its 57th performance season in July and August, cast performers will follow the trails to the area’s elementary schools. The performances will draw on musicians and performers from the region and will align with Virginia Standards of Learning curriculum standards, Jim Wardell said.

Lonesome Pine Arts and Crafts President Gail Luntsford said the idea of applying for the grant came after a conversation with the Wardells about how the drama could work with local schools.

“I knew it would be a good fit for ‘Trail of the Lonesome Pine’ and it all came together perfectly,” Luntsford said.

The grant also will help in developing lesson plans and classroom materials to go with the performances. 

“I am really grateful to Dominion Power for their support and appreciate the work Jim did to prepare the proposal; and Ryan, who is making it all become a reality,” Luntsford said.