The outdoor drama "From This Day Forward" written by Fred Cranford is the flagship show of Old Colony Players. The summer of 2022 will mark the 54th season of production. This drama tells the story of the Waldenses, a people from the area known as the Cottian Alps in Northern Italy near the French border, and the founders of the Town of Valdese.
The History Behind the Drama
The Waldensians are a pre-reformation reformed sect of Christianity. They believed in the priesthood of all believers, translating the scripture into the "common" languages of the people of the day and encouraging education so that all people could read the Bible for themselves. A simple people, they were dedicated to taking care of the poor and justice for the oppressed. The Waldensian Community was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1184 at the Synod of Verona. Pope Innocent the 3rd went even further in 1215 declaring all Waldensians heretics. Forced to renounce their religious stances or flee, the small community of believers sought refuge in the Cottian Alps, where life was somewhat protected by the rugged landscape and isolation. Even so, the Waldenses were heavily persecuted by both the Catholic Church and the Reigning Monarchs throughout the region. Perhaps one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of their faith was in 1655 in a series of persecutions known as the Piedmontese Easter. In this series of massacres it is said that thousands of Waldensians were murdered for their faith. It is a mere 30 years later that our play begins. Total annihilation of the Waldensian Faith was the aim, yet throughout all the years of persecution, their faith remained and grew stronger. This is the backdrop to our story.
The Waldenses, a group of simple, faithful people seek to keep their faith alive in the midst of persecution. Caught between the powerful Louis XIV of France and Duke Victor Amadeus, II of the Piedmont, the faithful Waldenses seek to keep their faith and their people alive. Knowing that persecution had always been part of their existence, the Waldenses recommit themselves to their faith, vowing to memorize scripture so that even if their Bibles were taken away, the Word of God would remain in their common lived experience. With the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had brought times of peace, the Waldenses are faced with fierce persecution once again. This time, however, after massacre and exile, the Waldenses, backed by international forces and Duke Victor Amadeus, II himself return to their homeland once again to reclaim their valleys and continue their faith. This chapter in history is known as the "Glorious Return". It is at this time that the persecutions of the Waldensians lessened and they were able to live in relative freedom and peace. It is interesting to note that after this time, the Waldenses would not be granted true freedom until 1848 when the "Edict of Emancipation" was signed, giving Waldenses civil freedom. However it should be noted that religious freedom was not granted to the Waldensian people until 1948 after WWII.
With the relative peace in the Waldensian Valleys since the battles of the 1690's, the population grew in the Waldensian Valleys. Family plots were divided and redivided until the population was once again threatened with extinction; this time from starvation. A decision was made to seek land in other countries, including South America and the United States. After much searching, one group of Waldenses selected a tract of land totaling 10,000 acres in an area of Burke County between the towns of Connelly Springs and Morganton, NC. In 1893 a small group of 29 Waldensian settlers emigrated from Italy to the new land in North Carolina, led by their Pastor Dr. Charles Albert Tron. They traveled from Italy to France by train, then to New York aboard the steamship SS Zaandam. From New York they traveled to North Carolina by train with dreams of rich and fertile farm land mingling with homesickness from memories of the valleys. The Waldenses arrived at their destination in North Carolina on May 29, 1893 under the watchful eyes of their skeptical Burke County neighbors. A new group of 18 settlers arrived in June 1893, another group of 14 in August 1893, and another group of 161 in November 1893. Their dreams of rich farms and prosperity were soon shattered by the realities of a cold winter, lack of adequate housing, and rocky soil. Again they had to struggle to overcome the hardships of this new land and the lack of acceptance by their Burke County neighbors. With their strong faith in God, hard work, and perseverance those obstacles were overcome and the Town of Valdese, NC was established.
From This Day Forward, written by Burke County native Fred Cranford, is presented from Mid July to Mid August in the
Fred B. Cranford Amphitheatre on Church Street in Valdese, NC.
With a combination of tears in your eyes and laughter in your heart you can witness this story of tragedy and triumph.