ALBANY, Ga. — The “bug” that bit former Lee County actor/playwright Stan Clardy while he was researching the American Civil War for background on a memorial song he was asked to write for a friend turned quickly into an obsession/passion that has only grown in the 20-plus years since.
From Clardy’s research emerged “Soldiers in Gray, a Musical Journey,” a one-man musical that Clardy will perform for the first time in Albany Friday at the downtown State Theatre.
“My wife Cathy (nee Eubanks, who directs the play and is in charge of lighting, sound and effects) and I debuted the play at Andersonville in 1998, but we’ve never done it in the Albany area,” Clardy said of “Soldiers in Gray.” “We still have a lot of friends down there, and Cathy’s mom is from the area, so we’re excited about showing the folks in Albany and Lee County what we do.”
Since its debut in ’98, the Clardys have performed Stan’s play 244 times as far north as Shippensburg, Pa., and as far south as Sarasota, Fla. They’ve performed for Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy groups, at Civil War roundtables and for re-enactor groups.
“We try to entertain, inspire and educate,” Stan Clardy said. “The character in the play never says his name or where he’s from, so he could be anyone’s ancestor. When researching the play, we looked for the common thread that runs through the war so that anyone could relate.
“Everything that happens in the play actually happened to someone during the war. I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me afterward and said, ‘That story you told is in my ancestor’s letters.’ I think the authenticity is what has given us such a great reception to the play.”
A former Lee County actor who now lives in Statesville, N.C., Clardy had always been a history buff with a keen interest in World War II. When Joe Childs asked him to write a song to perform at one of Childs’ ancestor’s memorial service, Clardy became fascinated with the American Civil War. He wrote “Soldiers in Gray” for Childs, and that became the title song for the one-man play he developed.
“Cathy and I had come up with an idea to do an album telling the story of a soldier in the war, and since we both had backgrounds in theater, it kind of grew into a play,” Clardy said. “We did research and found no one had ever done a one-man musical play about the War Between the States, so not knowing any better, we went ahead with our idea.”
In addition to “Soldiers in Gray, a Musical Journey,” Clardy has recorded six albums: the music from the play, “Southern Stars,” “God Save the South,” “Memorial Day,” “Songs of Faith and Heritage, Wayfaring Stranger” and “True South.” He’s also written a book, “TimeLight, a Journey Into the Past,” which is a fictional historical account of the Confederate submarine the H.L. Hunley.
All will be available at Friday’s play, which starts at 7 p.m. Advance tickets, which are available at Rodd Electronics, 1211 N. Slappey Blvd. in Albany, are $10 for adults and $8 for children 15-under. Tickets the day of the show are $12 for adults and $10 for children. Credit card purchases are available with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (704) 880-2031.
Period attire is welcome for the family-friendly production.