The story about the manhunt for the Allens and their kin following the deadly shootout at the Carroll County Courthouse in 1912 will be brought to life in a new play “To Catch the Allens.”
The play, authored by Frank Levering, which is the sequel to Levering’s highly successful “Thunder in the Hills,” will be performed on Aug. 15-17 and Aug. 22-24 at Levering’s Cherry Orchard Theatre. The play starts each night at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10. A “substantial amount of the proceeds will benefit the restoration of the Sidna Allen House,” according to Levering.
“It is the story of Sidna Allen on one side and the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency on the other side, but it’s also about the local people, who helped hide the Allens and their kin,” said Levering, who drew much material from the book “Memoirs of J. Sidna Allen: A True Narrative of What Really Happened at Hillsville, Virginia.”
“He portrayed himself as very easily evading and dodging the detectives,” said Levering. “It’s kind of the Robin Hood story, and it has a good bit of humor in the play. We’re having a good time with it.”
Stu Shenk and Kay Cox reprise their roles as Sidna Allen and his wife, Betty, while Joey Haynes tackles the part of Thomas Felts and Greg Goad portrays William Baldwin.
Felts is one of the key characters in the play, in part from his being a local resident – he lived in Woodlawn in a house even more palatial than that of Sidna Allens’ – and his many activities following the manhunt. He belonged to virtually every civic organization in Galax and was at one point a state senator.
“(Felts) was a very prominent citizen, but had a sort of Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde thing going on. There was a very violent part of his life that mostly took part in other areas,” said Levering. “He was personally involved in 20 shootouts, shot four times and one time a bullet went in right below his heart. One time after being shot, he walked six miles for help. He was one tough guy.”
That tough-guy persona even extended to Felts being indicted for murder in Wytheville. The case was eventually dropped after he pled self-defense.
Baldwin, who became Felts’ Partner in 1910, was “another tough guy,” according to Levering. “They didn’t always get along, sometimes they were at odds. We have a lot of fun with the interaction between Felts and Baldwin.”
Other actors who appeared in “Thunder in the Hills” also have roles in “To Catch the Allens,” among them Victor Allen, Terri Bowman and Matthew Utt, who portrays Wesley Edwards, who along with Sidna Allen escaped to Iowa before being betrayed.
In addition, Shelby Inscore Puckett is the play’s narrator, in addition to playing Maud Iroler in her later years. It was Iroler who notified the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency of the whereabouts of Allen and Edwards.
The play will go on rain or shine. If rain does prevent an outdoor performance, the play will be moved inside to one of the orchard’s packing houses, according to Levering.
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter @MikeEHowlett