Monday, October 6, 2014

The Dearly Departed Players

2013 Performance of The Dearly Departed Players
This coming Sunday, October 12, 2014, the Cemetery Traveler will be traveling to Scranton, Pennsylvania (from Philadelphia, where I live) to attend the annual “Dunmore Cemetery Tour.” This is actually in Dunmore, PA, a suburb of Scranton. And it’s really not so much a tour, as it is a a tour-d-force performance by the Dearly Departed Players, a theatrical troupe headed by Julie Snell-Esty.

Julie Esty (r) with daughter Megan during a performance

"Dearly Departed" cast member
The free tour is held on two weekends every October. This year, it was held on Sunday, October 5; next weekend, it will be held on Sunday, October 12. To give you an idea of the size of this event, about 400 people showed up last Sunday! This is typical. The Dearly Departed Players are a cast of about fifteen amateur and professional theatrical performers who enact scenes at different spots in the cemetery. The crowd is led to each of maybe eight sites where it stops to witness a (audio amplified) short play, monologue, reenactments, ballet, or a Spoon River Anthology-type presentation.

Wendy Conrad Belaski performing at Dunmore Cemetery
The crowd enjoys a witty and historically accurate script written (a new one each year!) by the troupe's artistic director Julie Esty. Some of the stories of those interred here in the Dunmore Cemetery have been published in Julie’s two books, listed below. As with her books, Julie bestows upon the audience an abundance of humor, tears, and history, all the while raising the public's awareness to the importance of cemeteries. The enthusiastic cast of Dearly Departed Players brings her script to life - so to speak.

Books by Julie Snell-Esty
Stories in Stone: Tales of Life from the Dunmore Cemetery
Stories in Stone Volume II: Tales of Life from the Dunmore and Forest Hill Cemeteries
(Please contact Julie Esty directly to purchase.)
This will be the third year I have attended the tour, officially as a guest artist, but I do tag around after the crowd to enjoy some of the entertainment. I set up on the lawn near the entrance about an hour before the crowd arrives (noon), along with a few other artist/vendors. So basically, I create a freestanding exhibit of my photographs, greeting cards, jewelry, books, etc. on a table and display racks on the lawn at the cemetery entrance. Then, busloads of people show up. It is in this short interval of time that I try to make my sales! I do spend quite a bit of time, however, chatting with folks about cemeteries in general. The tour begins at 2 pm.

Ed Snyder's "Stone Angels" sales display at the Dunmore Cemetery

Ballet during 2012 Dunmore Cemetery Tour

It is fascinating to see how many people show up for the performance, attesting to the quality of the production and the dedication of the Dearly Departed Players! You may notice from my photos that the performers typically dress in period costume, with the Victorian era being a quite popular one.

Performer entertaining an audience of hundreds at Dunmore Cemetery

After the two-hour tour/performance, the main thing on the minds of those hundreds of people is a bathroom! So while the cemetery for the most part clears out quickly, I tend to chat with many hangers-on, whether they be genealogists, actors, historians, or just regular people sharing ghost stories! There has traditionally been a dinner afterword and I am grateful for the invitations I have been extended by the Dearly Departed Players. They are such a joy to spend time with!

2013 cast of the Dearly Departed Players at the Dunmore Cemetery

More information!

Around the Towns, Sept. 28, 2014
The Dearly Departed Players on Facebook
The Dunmore Cemetery Tour on Facebook

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