WHITWELL, Tenn. – In an East Tennessee small town, Buttonwillow Civil War Dinner Theater, performs a daily show that specializes in bringing to life the complexities of the American Civil War.
“Granddaddy’s Watch,” a two-person play performed by Steve Gipson, the show’s creator, and his wife, immerses audiences into the 1860s by drawing them into a conversation between two family members on opposing sides of the war. It’s the story of a brother and sister from East Tennessee who meet on the battlefield in 1864. He is a diehard Unionist, a West Point graduate and career officer of 31 years. She is a Confederate sympathizer, secretly running medicine to their cousins across the line.
The play is a study in culture and society, as well as an effort to tell the real story of the Civil War. The play is based on actual events gleaned from hundreds of diaries and memoirs that Steve Gipson, the show’s creator, has studied throughout his life.
Gipson and his wife, Allison, traveled for 15 years performing the two-person show before settling into the town’s United Methodist Church. A step into the church is a step back in time as the production takes place in a dining hall that replicates 19th century American life, right down to the food as authentic recipes from Varina Davis’, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, cookbook are prepared and served.
The Southern menu includes Savannah-baked chicken, Louisiana bayou cornbread stuffing, plantation pan biscuits and low country blackberry cobbler. As patrons enjoy dinner, Gipson’s character enters the dining hall as the audience claps along to the tune of “Dixie.”
The Buttonwillow Civil War Dinner Theater recently was awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award. The accolade is given to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Establishments awarded the certificate are located all over the world and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.
The family-friendly production is best-suited for fourth-grade students and older.
The theater is open year-round. Reservations are required for lunch and dinner shows. Tickets are $33.95 for attendees 13 years and older. Tickets for children ages 6-12 are $17.95.
For more information, visit www.buttonwillowchurch.com.