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Welcome to Catawba County

November 8, 2010

Robert Inman, 63, grew up in a small town in Alabama, population 4,000. And, with a grin, he added, “The population is still 4,000 people.”
In Elba, Ala., grownups thought children were the most important things coming and going.
“We could feel that then – the love,” Inman said. “They let us know we mattered.
“One of the most important things we do in this life is invest in someone younger,” he added.
Life is about community, and the small-town flavor of being connected to each other.
Blowing Rock has that feel — of small hometown community. That hometown feel is in Blowing Rock and in Mitford, and for some folks, Mitford is Blowing Rock.
Mitford is the name of the fictional town in author Jan Karon’s the Mitford novels. And Inman’s “Welcome to Mitford” revolves around Father Tim Kavanagh, the much-loved bachelor rector of Lord’s Chapel Church in the mountain community of Mitford. Things in life are never simple, and through a series of life-changing events, Father Tim must make difficult decisions, with guidance from above, that affect all of those who are close to him. Come home to Mitford in this heartwarming play.
“‘Mitford’ premiered in Blowing Rock in 2007, and published last year,” Inman said. “It was produced in Tryon in September.This is the second production.
Inman read and outlined Karon’s nine books from the Mitford novels, chronologically. He dived in, read and outlined in six weeks.
“There was a lot to digest,” he said.
Inman used material from seven of the Mitford novels for his screenplay and admitted there was a bit of ground to cover.
“I cut and pulled out what I thought, and that took six to seven months,” he said. “I used seven of the books and excluded the Christmas book and the last book.
“This worked better with what I wanted to do,” he added. “There was a lot of ground to cover. “
Inman said it was a matter of figuring who the story is about and finding places in the seven books that told that story.
For Inman, it was a fairly quick piece of writing. However, he maintained standards.
“I tried not to equate the real with the fact,” he said. “I tried to let Mitford exist on its own.”
Once Inman puts his screenplays on paper, he lets go of it.
With the original premier in Blowing Rock, Inman attended every rehearsal. He learned that it was time to let it go.
“My idea of the character may differ from the director,” he said. “This is a very collaborative process — my words, their vision. This is their show.
“I do not tell how to play roles,” he added, “I am here if needed and will act if consulted.
Inman enjoys seeing different theatres doing his work.
“I am blown away with the OPOP (Old Post Office Playhouse),” he said. “First time I walked in, I said, ‘Oh, no problem, no problem.’”
The OPOP has all the bells and whistles,” he added.
Inman has opportunities to work in some really good theatres.
“There is maybe a handful in the country that has a space like this,” he said.
Inman, who for years called Charlotte and Boone home, now calls Catawba County home and said, “It’s good to be here.”
Charlotte is a great town, and he’s watched it grow, but…
“I love Catawba County,” he smiled. “We’re not leaving Charlotte, we are coming to Catawba County.
Blowing Rock has the feel of Mitford, and readers of the series want to move to Mitford.
“The dynamics are unique,” he said. “You see the same people every day interact and get along.
“When audiences see the production (Mitford) they, too, will identify with the folks and the community,” he said.
Inman hopes to finish a novel he started years ago.
“If I stop being a playwright long enough to write,” he laughed. “I’m close to the end of a rough draft.”

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