Nance Dude by Gary Carden, starring Elizabeth Westall
(DVD, 2009, 60 minutes, $23, distributed from 236 Cherry St., Sylva, N. C. 28779). See Holler Notes
For authentic, character-driven stories from the mountain past, we go to Gary Carden, illustrious Sylva storyteller, from whom, thankfully, we now have a third DVD of one of his stage productions. Carden’s sympathetic view of Nance Dude, the Haywood County woman who, in 1913, disposed of her granddaughter in a closed-up cave, comes through in a monologue performed--no, completely inhabited--by Elizabeth Westall.
“Maybe some of you folks is heared of me,” Westall-as-Dude starts out, after quieting off-stage dogs. People get on high horses, even still, harrumphing disdain for her misdeed.
The legendary pariah then goes on to reveal what she has endured as a woman trapped in poverty. When she'd left a grim marriage and conceived a daughter by another man, the community began their contempt. The man who eventually gave her and Flossie a home makes a bargain with Nance: marriage to the girl, now fourteen, in exchange for survival.
The granddaughter comes along, and Nance’s son-in-law wants her taken away. Days of wandering by Nance elicit no foster parents. Carden’s portrayal succeeds against odds in making the legend human. Has the Smithsonian stepped up yet to name him a national treasure?