Captivating visuals from small towns in the 1930s and ’40s are set to an original live score created by composer, singer, and violinist Jenny Scheinman for her performance “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait” at the Moss Arts Center on Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.

The performance will be held in the center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall.

Depression-era filmmaker H. Lee Waters, a journeyman portrait photographer from Lexington, North Carolina, documented more than 118 small towns in the southeastern United States between 1936 and 1942. He filmed regular people going about their lives — mill workers streaming out of factories, a mother and daughter dancing on a dirt road, an old man reading a wartime headline.

He would film as many people as possible in public places, then return several weeks later to show the footage in the towns’ movie theaters. People flocked to see themselves on the silver screen. Between 1936 and 1942, Waters worked tirelessly to create 118 movies, compiling one of the most comprehensive documents of American life at that time.

Scheinman wrote and collected fiddle tunes, narrative songs, labor songs, and lyrics to accompany the footage that underscored several main themes — labor, community, dancing, film, industry, and childhood. Director Finn Taylor and editor Rick LeCompte combed through Waters’ catalog and re-edited the strongest material into an hour-long film, using Scheinman’s music as the foundation.

Scheinman will be joined for the performance by Robbie Fulks on guitar, banjo, and vocals, and Robbie Gjersoe on resonator guitar, baritone electric guitar, and vocals.

“These are America’s home movies. They contain a clue to our nature, an imprint of our ancestry,” explained Scheinman. “They were shot before Americans had sophisticated understanding of film, and capture truthfulness that one is hard-pressed to find in this day and age now that we are immersed in a world of social media, video, and photography. These people can dance. Girls catapult each other off seesaws and teenage boys hang on each other’s arms. Toothless men play resonator guitars on street corners, and toddlers push strollers through empty fields. They remind us of our resilience and of our immense capacity for joy even in the hardest of times.”

This performance of “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait” is supported in part by a gift from Don and Libby Drapeau.

Prior to the performance, the Moss Arts Center, in partnership with the Blacksburg Museum & Cultural Foundation and Virginia Tech Libraries Special Collections, presents “Life in Blacksburg, 1930-1949” in the Grand Lobby. Beginning at 6 p.m., the free lobby display explores what everyday life looked like in Blacksburg in the 1930s and ‘40s through photographs and artifacts.

“Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait” was made possible, in part, with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts; a grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation; a grant from New Music USA; a Visiting Artist Grant from the Council for the Arts, Office of the Provost, Duke University; support from the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University; and a gift from Neil D. Karbank.


Tickets for the performance are $20-45 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to an event.

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