The Neighbors
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The Neighbors

Lenoir, North Carolina, United States

Lenoir, North Carolina, United States
Band Folk Bluegrass


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"Miracle on the Mountain returns to Crossnore School"

Once again, the moving story of the lives of a married pair of doctors unfolds in the hillside amphitheater on the campus of Crossnore School.

The outdoor drama, Miracle on the Mountain, reveals the devotion and determination of doctors Eustace and Mary Martin Sloop to bring medical care, education, respect for the law, and even prosperity to a small community located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

The play, adapted by Morganton dramatist Bill Wilson from Mary Sloop’s biography, “Miracle in the Hills,” is a multimedia production with live music from Lenoir musicians the Neighbors and rear-screen projection of historical photographs that enhance the dramatic action. The play will run from July 22 to 26, starting at 8 p.m. and then again on July 27, starting at 2 p.m.

Recently, the play’s director, Keith Smith, and some of the cast members spoke about their experiences returning to the play. For Smith, it feels good to be back working in Crossnore, and he said, “It’s a special place and a special story. This is the kind of environment where miracles can happen and do happen.”

Smith is pleased that this year’s show is much tighter, with fewer set pieces and less transition time. For him, the story is the same, yet the telling is a little different this year. Much fine-tuning has gone into the drama, as necessary changes have been revealed.

Cathy Stallings returns to the drama as Mary M. Sloop. In the year since the previous production, she has found deeper understanding of her character. Working with the children of Crossnore, who acted in many scenes of the play, brought her new awareness of their needs and added to the dimensions of her role. “The special needs of these children came to light,” she explained. “What continued to stir our souls all year were the children we met. Many people don’t realize how grateful these children are to be at Crossnore. Playing Mary brought that realization to me.” Noting that she’s “tickled pink” to be back again, Stallings said with a giggle that Mary Sloop’s “cry and pout” strategy of having children deal with reluctant parents in a mournful manner actually works – nearly a century after Dr. Sloop invented the technique.

“Be martyrs,” Mary coaches the children. “Your parents will send you to school in their own self-defense.”

Local musician Jesse Smith, who plays the characters of Deputy Walt, the Preacher, and Mr. Deaton the cabbage farmer, doesn’t let his blindness impede the animation he brings to his parts. For him, the resuming of practice was like a family reunion.

“We were all hugging,” he said. “I get five-star help from the cast.”

Like Stallings, Smith has used the past year as a chance to reflect on the deeper aspects of his characters. He compares acting to story-telling – in both arts every detail must contribute to an overall effect. As an example, he mentioned the duplicitous Deputy Walt. Sworn to uphold the law, Walt tries at the same time to dupe Mary Sloop about the location of the moonshine still. That craftiness, ineffective in deterring Dr. Sloop, must be conveyed through subtle yet recognizable nuances. Smith revels in the challenges this brings to his acting.

Stephen Starnes, unforgettable as old Uncle Abe, crotchety and grumbling and exchanging impromptu one-liners with the audience as he walks down the hillside to the accompaniment of a raucous klaxon car horn to cast his “fer” vote for a new high school, says his interaction with the audience is a treat. Starnes offers colorful comparisons for the lead characters and the rest of the cast. “The Sloop doctors are the meat and taters,” he said with a straight face, “and the rest of us are like the seasoning or the side dishes. We supplement them.”

Then, effortlessly switching metaphors, he added, “Mary is the sun and we’re all satellites revolving around her.”

A married couple, Leon and Patsy Howard, speak of their delight in being back.

“I couldn’t wait to get back into it,” Patsy Howard said. “I love the story — I’ve been Crossnored.”

By that she means that she feels accepted into the Crossnore School family. Recently, she shared her excitement on a TV show in Boone, helping to promote the play. Leon Howard says he remains most impressed by the way Bill Martin rounds out the character of Dr. Eustace Sloop. “Eustace comes across as a man of many talents: a doctor, a weather service volunteer and an electrical engineer who installed a power plant on the nearby river.”

Many of the actors have close personal ties to the Crossnore story. Actress Rachel Deal, who plays Rachel, remembers the Sloops when she was a little girl. Actor Bill Martin’s father was director of the school from 1973 to 1982. His great uncle was practicing medicine in Plumtree, when the young Drs. Sloop first came to the mountains. Last year’s inaugural performance brought kudos and thanks from deeply-moved audience members who remembered the Sloops or who had gone to the school. For them, the play evoked that bygone time masterfully.

Miracle on the Mountain is a testament to tenacity, resourcefulness and the power of prayer. It celebrates and preserves the story of a missionary and visionary who gave her life to improving the lives of children, as well as those of a whole community. Mary Sloop’s legacy lives on today in the Crossnore School, which serves more than 250 of North Carolina’s abused, abandoned and neglected children from across the state each year. Children who have found a haven at Crossnore School are now enacting the lives of their predecessors of a century ago.

Tickets to the drama are available for $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 10 and under by calling (828) 733-4305 . Tickets are available at the gate, but reservations in advance are recommended. Seating this year is by ticket number and corresponding numbered chair.

All proceeds (including donations and contributions) from Miracle on the Mountain defray production costs and benefit the programs serving the children who are residents at the Crossnore School, a nonprofit organization. The Sloop Amphitheater is located next to the Edwin Guy Building (formerly Sloop Hospital) on the Crossnore School campus.

For more information about the Crossnore School or about Miracle on the Mountain, contact Laura Laughridge, chief advancement officer and producer of the outdoor drama at (828) 733-1655 or email - The Mountain Times

"Tale of mountain reformers joins NC outdoor dramas"

Dr. Mary Martin Sloop shook things up in the mountains of North Carolina.

She and her husband, Dr. Eustace Sloop, came to the small town of Crossnore, about 35 miles northwest of Morganton, in the early 1900s to be Christian medical missionaries. They traversed the steep paths of Avery County on foot and horseback, taking medical care to the mostly poor and isolated residents.

Eustace was the driving force in bringing electricity to the area. Mary lobbied the state for good roads to replace muddy trails. She busted up a few stills. She even was named North Carolina Mother of the Year by the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs, then national Mother of the Year by ladies of the Golden Rule Foundation.

“She was well respected” said Bill Wilson, author of the outdoor historical drama “Miracle on the Mountain,” based on Mary Sloop’s memoir, “Miracle in the Hills.”

In 1913, the Sloops founded a school that still operates today as Crossnore School, a nonprofit boarding school for neglected, abused, abandoned and orphaned children from all of North Carolina. Mary Sloop “felt that children needed to be in school more than two or three years, and that parents shouldn’t keep them home to run sawmills and work on farms,” said Wilson, director of the City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium.

The drama debuted last August and drew a full house to all seven performances at the Crossnore School’s amphitheater, said Rob Fox, director of the Institute of Outdoor Drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Admission was by donation to the school.

This year’s shows will be at 8 p.m. July 22-26 and 2 p.m. July 27, and admission will be charged. Proceeds from tickets of $10 each for adults and $5 for children 10 and under will benefit the school. For tickets, directions and other information, call (828) 733-4305 .

The institute, a public service agency of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, advises 103 dramas nationwide about management, publicity and other aspects of the field. The dramas include summer Shakespeare festivals and other plays staged outside – especially those based on historical events and staged near where they occurred.

Of 22 outdoor dramas in North Carolina this summer season, the big three historical plays all have new directors, Fox said, which may result in new perspectives. Those are “The Lost Colony” in Manteo, the nation’s first outdoor drama, written by the late UNC professor Paul Green; “Unto These Hills” in Cherokee, the second oldest drama; and “Horn in the West” in Boone, the third oldest.

“The Lost Colony” will open its 71st season May 30 with all new costumes. More than 1,000 new costumes have been created after a fire last September destroyed the previous costumes.

“The state’s outdoor dramas offer tourists and local residents a variety of affordable, first-rate entertainment from the coast to the mountains,” Fox said. “As prices at the pump continue to climb, many North Carolinians will vacation closer to home this year.”

For information about all North Carolina outdoor dramas, including opening dates and contact information, visit ( ). To learn about dramas nationwide, visit .

This year will bring a revised “Miracle on the Mountain”– a bit shorter, said Wilson. Again this year, a 12-foot by 8-foot screen displaying mountain and historical scenes will be the centerpiece of the play’s backdrop. An old-time mountain band, The Neighbors,” will provide music for the play. Some characters in the 55-member cast will sing hymns as part of the program.

For one week in July, “Miracle on the Mountain” will offer an added entertainment option for high country residents and visitors alike, from Boone to Linville Falls, Penland to Grandfather Mountain and beyond.

For more on the school’s history, visit .

Crossnore School Web site:
Institute of Outdoor Drama Web site:

Note: Wilson can be reached at (828) 438-9411 or e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Institute of Outdoor Drama contact: Rob Fox, (919) 962-1328 , robfox@unc.eduThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Crossnore School contact: Laura Laughridge, (828) 733-1655 , llaughridge@crossnoreschool.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589 -


Carolina Memories
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"The Neighbors" have been performing together for more than 10 years. Originally, the group began as informal picking sessions in one another's living rooms and on front porches. What began as a means to express a passion for acoustic music has grown to the dynamic, energetic group that is "The Neighbors."

The group performs at all manner of functions including clubs, festivals, benefits for associations and individuals, and private parties. The group has twice performed on The King Pup Radio Show syndicated to over 40 stations in the Southeastern US.

The band recently provided music for a new outdoor drama at the Crossnore School in Crossnore, NC. The show is called 'Miracle on the Mountain' and chronicles the life of Mary Martin Sloop who founded the Crossnore School.

The group has made several local television appearances and also participated in the 2004 Caldwell County Traditional Musicians' Showcase entitled "Playin Hooky." There is a link provided to view some of the photography by David Cortner of this particular show.

"The Neighbors" have been invited and have performed at the Bronzewound Showcase at the 2008 IBMAs in Nashville, TN.

"The Neighbors" just completed a successful and enjoyable four days at Merlefest. Our sets included one at the Walker Center on Friday afternoon. Some of the tunes can be viewed by checking out our Myspace page or on You Tube.