A Ride on Violet’s Bus
Violet’s journey takes her far from home, further than she’s ever been before, in search of healing and love. From her small hometown of Spruce Pine to big cities like Nashville and Memphis, Violet goes on an extraordinary ride through the American South.
Spruce Pine was founded 50 miles NE of Asheville, NC in 1907, and became the largest town in the Toe River Valley: a center of commerce and home of mining interests like The Feldspar Company and Spruce Pine Mica. The town has a total area of 3.9 square miles, so one might assume that everyone in town would have known Violet, and Violet would have known everyone in town.
Violet’s bus ride takes her first to Kingsport, TN, where she meets her unplanned travel companions, Monty and Flick. Kingsport is a relatively insignificant town; pertinent to the fact that Violet meets the soldiers there, a munitions plant was built in Kingsport during WWII, and there is a military vessel named in honor of the city.
After the diner stop in Kingsport, Violet, Monty, and Flick ride their bus to Nashville and then Memphis, TN. Both Nashville and Memphis are well-known for their place in the development of American music, and their influence can be seen in the musical styles in Violet. Composer Jeanine Tesori remarked to Roundabout Theatre upon Violet’s Broadway run, “I went to Beale Street in Memphis, went through their archives, went to a lot of healing services, talked to people who were snake handlers. I spent a lot of time with the musicians down in Nashville, and we threw ideas around about how things might sound.”
Nashville was also an important site in the Tennessee civil rights movement. Three years prior to the events in Violet, sit-ins were staged at stores in Nashville’s central business district from February 3-May 10, 1960. This action culminated in desegregated lunch counters. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed—following additional sit-ins, picketing events, and protests—the year after Flick, Monty, and Violet traveled together.
From Memphis to Fort Smith, Arkansas, home of Fort Chafee (the training facility of the regional National Guard and Reserve Corps, where Elvis stopped en route to his his military training).
And finally (before returning to Fort Smith) to Tulsa, OK, where Violet hopes to have herself healed. Tulsa is part of the “Bible Belt;” since the city houses Oral Roberts University and has been home to notable evangelists like Joel Osteen, Smokie Norful, and Billy Joe Dougherty, it would have been a natural destination for Violet’s search for glory. Time magazine called Tulsa “America’s Most Beautiful City” in 1957, but can it pass its beauty on to Violet?
Sometimes it takes a grand journey for a person to find oneself. We are excited to welcome you on Violet’s journey with her.