If you have driven west on Cumberland Avenue you’ve seen her picture on the side of the A.D. Campbell Store building. The elegant lady presiding over the Victorian tea service is Nellie Arthur, wife of Middlesborough founder Alexander Arthur, and the subject of Middlesboro Little Theatre’s (MLT) spring play simply entitled Nellie.
Nellie, the latest in a series of local history plays written by Amy Simpson, explores the inner world of Nellie Goodwin Arthur, wife of Middlesboro founder Alexander Arthur. While written accounts assure that Nellie remained poised and optimistic regardless of the hardships she and her husband faced, the play allows theatre-goers a glimpse of an all-too-human wife and mother navigating her way through life in the Victorian age. The play takes viewers from Middlesboro’s boom to its inevitable bust, 1890-93.
The play was written by MLT Director Amy Simpson. She is currently enrolled in an MFA program at Spalding University, majoring in writing with an emphasis in playwriting. In addition to Nellie she has written and staged five local plays.
Simpson’s local history plays The Gatekeeper and Magic Man were presented to enthusiastic audiences. An associate professor of English and coordinator of tutor services at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, Simpson lives in Middlesboro with her husband Bill and children Corley and Sidney.
The cast include both veterans and actors making their stage debut. Kim Carney is making her stage debut as title character Nellie Arthur. She is a veterinarian at the Harrogate Hospital for Animals but plans to move to South America to serve as a missionary. Her husband David Carney appears as Middlesborough’s founder Alexander Arthur.
Bonnie Banks appears as Nellie’s childhood companion Alma, and Judy Cox plays Rhoda, Nellie’s mother. Banks is a librarian at the Middlesboro Public Library, while Cox is president of MLT and has appeared in plays too numerous to mention. MLT Veteran Barbara Rowlett plays Myrtle, the Alexanders’ servant. Cheryl Black, Vice-President of MLT, appears as Ruth, the Arthur children’s nanny.
A number of talented children appear in the cast: Kenzie Graham as Young Nellie; Madison Monday as Young Alma; Ali Graham as Winnifred; Caleb Carney as James; Anna Graham as Marion; Claudia Black as Annabel; Vian Steele as Elizabeth; Chelsea Mullins as Caroline; Anissa Johnson as Madeline; and Haleigh and Sadie Banks as Anne and Bessie.
Serving as Stage Manager is Kennady Ray, a student at Thomas Walker High School and a newcomer to MLT.
Performances will be nightly at 7:30 p.m. on March 6, through March 10, at the Middlesboro Central Auditorium (next door to MHS) on West Cumberland Avenue. Tickets are available at the door and will cost $6 for senior citizens and students of any age, and $10 for general admission. Group discounts are available for organized school groups. For more information, contact MLT President Judy Cox at 269-1968.
Robert Cox is a professor of English at SKCTC.