Bryan D. Leys

Carolina Rising


Inspired by true events, Carolina Rising tells a tale of how frustration mixed with courage can turn a troublemaker into a hero.

In 1973 in Roanoke Rapids, NC, the JP Stevens Company owns the mill, the stores, banks, and most of the housing. The result is a corporate fiefdom where the company's will is law, working conditions are poor, hours are long, and compensation is low.

Crystal Ann McKay, a young widow with a child, works in a factory sewing labels on towels. Her prospects are limited; her wild and independent spirit finds no outlet in the town’s unending dreariness. She is courted by Boomer Benson, a nice, steady guy. Crystal marries him mostly out resignation and for the sake of her kid.

Life abruptly changes one day when labor organizer Virgil Jackson arrives from Detroit. Converted by Virgil’s fiery speeches, Crystal agrees to help him form a union. Her home becomes headquarters for interracial labor meetings. Soon, Crystal’s marriage is in trouble and when she goes back to the mill to serve as Virgil’s spy, she gets caught stealing documents. Arrested and shamed in front of the town, Crystal has to apologize to her son as she is carted off to jail. She finds herself more and more attracted to Virgil, but he ultimately puts the union first.

Once the union is formed, Virgil moves on to the next town. Crystal gains a new perspective on who she is and what she can do. She has learned that defiance comes with a price, but in the end, the journey can be well worth it.

The show has a bouncy country western score and a good deal of down-home humor. The cast includes six principals; the secondary characters can be performed by members of the band.

Cast of Characters (in order of appearance)

Note: Many of the minor characters are played by members of the band.

The Band Guitar, Fiddle, Banjo, Keyboard, Drums.
Norman Crowder Foreman at the mill, 30’s.
Crystal Ann McKay A young mill worker, 33.
Tyler McKay Crystal’s son, 8.
Mabel McKay Crystal’s mother, 55.
Blondie Another mill worker, mid 50’s.
Virgil Jackson A union organizer, black, 47.
Gordon Davis Plant supervisor, late 30’s.
Verna A waitress, Crystal’s friend, late 20’s.
Boomer Benson A divorced man, late 30’s.
Ada Grant Luncheonette owner, early 40’s.
Sister Susanna Daring Pastor of the Baptist Church, late 30’s.
Lamar Berry The local deputy sheriff, 30’s.
Margaret Banks A union representative, 58.

Music Excerpts

Music by Kevin Kuhn