Playwright-winning Civil War era story shows at Valencia

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The life story of Rose Anna McCoy is only a footnote in American history, but it’s the focus of screenwriter Stephen DeWoody and his play “Mountain Rose: The Ballad of Rose Anna McCoy.” The play is the winner of the 21st annual Valencia College Florida Playwright Competition.

The deadly blood rivalry between the real-life Hatfield and McCoy families during the Civil War era serves as the background of the tale.

“I’ve researched the families before, and this little gem of a story starring Rose Anna just stuck with me,” said screenwriter Stephen DeWoody. He was the winner of the same competition in 2010 with his play “Doors.”

A detailed stage resembling a rustic log cabin in the woods and soft fiddle-driven bluegrass music filled the small Black Box Theater, creating the effect of stepping back in time. A family seated in the front row was reminded by the authentic stage of their family home in Boone, North Carolina.

The story focuses on a mysterious illness slowly killing the strong-willed Rose Anna. To further explain this moment and the Hatfield-McCoy feud, a guitar-wielding Balladeer played by Stephen Nettles steps out and addresses the audience with a song and story.

“She tries to be a rock for herself because that’s the way she has always been,” said Samantha Ann Schwartz, who plays Rose Anna McCoy.

Rose is known by her family and others as tough-as-nails, with a strong will to fight. Her life may have been uneventful and the family feud may have never reached its deadly heights if not for the forsaken love affair Rose engages in with Johnse Hatfield.

“He does some things that aren’t really the best, but I try to portray him in a likeable way,” said Nick Lougheed, who plays Johnse Hatfield.

The two quickly fall in love after Johnse connects with Rose on a planned chance encounter. Johnse pledges to marry her and speak to both fathers in an attempt to make everything work out.

The relationship comes to a traumatic end when Rose catches Johnse shacked up in the barn with her younger cousin Nancy McCoy. A heated fight breaks out between this secret love triangle, and Rose promises to leave Johnse and never come back.

“The actors are creating these roles for the first time, and there’s a lot of excitement in that,” said director Julia Gagne. She has overseen this playwright competition from the beginning, and loves giving opportunities for individuals looking to get involved with productions and Valencia in the future.