"Denbigh Colony" Plans Extensive Centennial Celebrations

See also the official Warwick District Centennial page and the encore performance page...

Newport News, Virginia - A new folk opera based on extensive oral histories will highlight the Warwick Centennial celebration in early October. The opera and a weekend of activities should be of interest to anyone involved with Mennonite community.

"We hope old and new friends will mark October 2-5, 1997 on their calendars and plan to be with us," said Esther Mable Yoder, chair of the Warwick Centennial Committee.

A number of reunions are planned for persons who used to live in the area of Newport News once known as the "Denbigh Colony." Other local Mennonite groups who have differing heritages are also participating.

The Centennial weekend features historical displays, tours, meetings, music, and speakers. Myron Augsburger will give the keynote address Saturday night. "The events will have a lot of local color," Yoder said, "but anyone who enjoys Mennonite community will find themselves welcome."

The folk opera, which will be the premiere production in a new performance center, explores the light and dark of building a community. This will be a major production based on extensive oral histories and staged by national talent. Major grants came from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Robert Hostetter, a playwright and screen writer based in Chicago, is writing the book and lyrics. The music is by Sally Rogers, an award winning folk artist from Connecticut. Richard Owen Geer, who has been recognized for elevating community performance to new prominence, will direct. Geer's play "Swamp Gravy" was declared the official folk play of Georgia and was recently performed at the Kennedy Center and as part of the Olympic Festival.

Mennonites first came to the Virginia Peninsula in 1897 seeking cheap land during a depression. The settlement was never large, but had great influence. Ground was broken in Denbigh for the institution later known as Eastern Mennonite University. There are now five churches on the Peninsula, each with a distinct heritage: Calvary, Huntington, Providence, Williamsburg, and Warwick River.

- Steve Fannin


Posted courtesy of Mennonite Connections on the WWW