The small Georgia town of “Second Samuel” takes center stage again in the upcoming Macon Little Theatre production of “A Higher Place in Heaven.”
The play —written by Pamela Parker — is a prequel to last season’s production of “Second Samuel.” There was such a good response to that show, the theater looked for another Parker play to produce, said Erin Ferrell, who is directing “Heaven.”
“(The play) is really a story about family — how you define your family, what makes your family,” she said. “It’s a common thing that Pamela Parker does — making you see people below the surface. It’s helping you learn to judge people by their inner character and not what you see with the outer shell.”
“A Higher Place in Heaven” is set in 1925 at the New Hope plantation, where the matriarch, Miss Madison, lives with her youngest son Frisky. The plantation is also home to Miss Madison’s longtime friend and servant Miss Simpson and her youngest son Ulysses, or US.
“Miss Simpson’s family were slaves on the plantation pre-Civil War era,” Ferrell said.
Miss Madison’s older son, Son, is in town for a monument dedication to his late father when he discovers his mother’s will.
“He finds out Miss Madison isn’t leaving the plantation to son Frisky,” Ferrell said. “She’s actually leaving it to Miss Simpson. Of course, in 1925 you generally left these things to family and if you didn’t, you certainly did not leave it to a person of color if you were a white person.”
This discovery leads to a twist, which Parker loves to do in her plays.
“You’ll laugh. You may cry a little just because it touches you, not because of sadness,” Ferrell said. “At the end of it all, you will come out really loving these families.”
The play unfolds in two acts on the front porch of the New Hope plantation.
“My actors playing Miss Simpson and Miss Madison have a really, really great chemistry together and they start the show and they end the show,” Ferrell said. “Watching their relationship really is a beautiful thing.”
The characters Frisky and US were adults in last season’s “Second Samuel,” which focused on the aftermath of the death of piano teacher Miss Gertrude.
“With our children playing the young Frisky and the young US, we lucked out because they really remind you of the adult characters from last year,” Ferrell said. “You’ll see the resemblance.”
Ferrell was assistant director for “Second Samuel” and then ended up in one of the roles at the last minute. She is making her directing debut with “A Higher Place in Heaven” but has been involved with community theater for 25 years.
“My first show was with Theatre Macon when I was 14,” Ferrell said.
She is excited about the opportunity to bring this second Parker production to the local stage.
“It’s a lot of gentle humor. It’s very touching at the same time,” Ferrell said. “The end will just fill you up with warmth.”