Tent Show in Parsons, TN

In the first two decades of the 20th century, more than 700 repertory troupes entertained thousands, traveling throughout the Midwest and South. Tent shows developed out of a number of different stage styles, including melodrama, circus and vaudeville. Most have disappeared but we were lucky to stumble upon one in Parsons, TN, where the community has revived the show and performs locally. with scripts and props from way back when. For three hours we were captivated by the sights, sounds, smells, but mostly the spirit of the performers doing this vaudeville show with comedy gags, music, variety acts and a bit of serious drama. At one point in the show they indicated they needed a lawyer, and one of the actors (we’d met and spoken to earlier) came off the stage saying, “I hear they have good lawyers in Oregon” and enlisted Mary Jane to join them on stage. She was to defend the lead actor who had been charged for “something” (it was never clear what). After lots of shouting among the actors on stage (while Mary was trying to figure out what it was all about) the “judge” declared that her client was innocent and that the hearing was over if she would do the proper thing and pronounce the proceedings adjourned, in Latin. She scrambled trying to think of ANY Latin words she could remember (or anything sounding like Latin!) from her High School class in that language, and blurted out, something like, “Diem, pluris bluem!” which “cracked up” the actors on stage as well as those peeking in from the side stage. Her client was obviously relieved at the vindication and high fived her, while the audience was laughing and applauding. It was a hoot…we were so glad we saw their signs, stopped to investigate and attended the performance. This was small town USA in the very best sense.

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