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Shelby man's two-act play wins local playwriting contest

Shelby native Ludy Marvin Wilkie, is - among many other things - an accomplished playwright.

He has penned many plays and had just as many performed. To that end, he can now add another play to his ever-growing list: his two-act family comedy "Lum & Abner", based on the lovable radio characters created by the late Chet Lauck and Norris Goff and written as an homage to easier times when life was a little simpler and slower.

The comedy won first place in the Cherryville Little Theatre's 2021 Playwriting Contest.

Sarah Sandoval, of the CLT, said, "While 'Lum and Abner' may be a period play, the story of a community coming together is timeless."

She continued, "The goal of Cherryville Little Theatre's playwriting contest (was) to engage our community during a time when our doors were shut due to the pandemic," as they search for ways to encourage the arts during a time when it was needed the most, a theme not so different from that in Wilkie's play, as the characters work together to save their town with creative solutions.

Sandoval said, "(All) submissions were judged based on plot, professionalism, and potential audience appeal."

Wilkie, a U.S. Army veteran, is a Shelby High School graduate; a Western Carolina University and University of Oklahoma graduate (English degree); was a military journalist on Okinawa (winning the Army Commendation Medal); worked several years in broadcasting (news director at WADA/Shelby and WBBO/Forest City); an AP Roy Hardee Award winner (1984); and was a school teacher until he retired. He was named Greater Shelby Community Theatre's 2010 "Volunteer of the Year".

For their part, CLT told Mr. Wilkie that at the time of the competition there were no guarantees on putting the winning show onstage due to COVID restrictions, adding "...that aspect wasn't a part of the contest", still they did say they are "...looking to encourage artistic endeavors and maintain engagement from the community during lockdown with the hope of future productions."

Wilkie's other plays include: "The Ballad of Nancy Hanks"; "The Diary of Faust"; "Three Jolly Coachmen"; "Hello, Johnny Appleseed"; "Wages of Sin" "Golden Days of Yesteryear"; "Ruth, of Moab"; and "The Son of Man".

As for his writing the play, atthe end of the day, Wilkie said it was all about his love of radio.

"I have always enjoyed old radio shows. Some years back I heard a broadcast of two 15-minute 'Lum and Abner' Christmas programs and became very interested in them. That led to research and, eventually to the script."

Wilkie said the script was approved by Chet Lauck Jr., whose father played Lum in the series.

"That family holds the rights to the 'Lum and Abner' trademark, and I made arrangements through them to market the play.

"'Lum and Abner' helped America through the Great Depression and World War Two. Now they stand in the wings waiting to entertain us again. I hope that they get the chance," he said.

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