Danville’s Bush featured in Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights

Published 11:44 am Thursday, February 23, 2023



Danville native and playwright Catherine Bush are being featured in a major regional theater festival.

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Bush’s “Grandma Gatewood Took a Walk” is one of the six plays featured in the 23rd annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights that runs through Feb. 26 at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. Grandma Gatewood Took a Walk specifically will be featured at 1 p.m. Saturday,.

The work tells the story of Emma Gatewood, who at age 67 became the first woman to solo hike through the entirety of the 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail that extends from Georgia to Maine.

“Gatewood has been becoming more well known recently with more information coming out about why she took her journey 1955,” Bush said, “She has history of abuse by her husbands hands, she lived an amazing life. I first learned of her 10 years ago at a store along the trail that had a pair of her shoes on display. Barter Theater is always looking for small cast shows. I wanted to write a two-hander with an actress playing Grandma Gatewood and another actor playing every other character. It’s not very realistic, it is a theatrical look at the obstacles and they are personified by the characters she meets. Everybody she meets asks her why she is doing it. In real life she never gave a solid answer but this is a version of what I think her why might have been.”

Director of the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights, Nick Piper, selected Bush’s play because of her unique writing style.

“We stated this festival in the year 2000 to develop authentic Appalachian work for our audience,” Piper said, “Catherine is the resident playwright at Barter Theater and first came to us through the festival. One of the strengths she has when writing about the region is that she bust up the stereotypes. She is always writing something surprising, funny, and poignant. She is a terrific writer and she has wanted to write a play about Gatewood’s journey through the Appalachian Trail for a long time.”