The Surry Arts Council’s production of Burton Cohen’s “The Wedding of the Siamese Twins” opens Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Earle Theatre in downtown Mount Airy.
This 15th annual Surry Arts Council production celebrates the lives of the world-famous twins and former Mount Airy residents Eng and Chang Bunker.
This year the directorship has changed hands. Some of the actors are the same, but the roles have changed.
Stan Bernstein, an alumnus of UNC School of the Arts, is directing the show. This is his first production with the Surry Arts Council.
Savannah Mumford will play the role of Adelaide Yates and Amber King will play Sally Yates. The Yates sisters were the wives of the Bunker Siamese twins. In years past, King played the role of Adelaide Yates.
Elizabeth Martin has an expanded role as the sisters’ mother, Nancy Yates.
Scott Carpenter is playing the role of Eng Bunker for the first time, while Greg Matthews, who has played Eng for several years, will be playing the role of Chang.
Bob Keck plays a variety of roles and Betsy Manieri is the stage manager.
“In writing the play, Cohen says that he writes about every relationship you have ever had, every attachment, every separation and every connection you have ever made. Cohen compares the twins’ fame to such stars as Elvis and Madonna. He says they spent their lives being stars and charming people,” said Bernstein.
He went on to say that because the twins had 21 children between them, people are often fascinated with their love lives. He said there is a lot more detail about that subject in this year’s show.
Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, told the story of the twin’s lives.
Born in Siam on May 11, 1811, brought to the United States when they were 18 by Robert Hunter and Abel Coffin, the twins were exhibited and under contract with Hunter and Coffin for three years, she said.
Following the end of their contract period, they declared their independence from their contractors and began to manage themselves. For a bit of rest and relaxation, they visited a physician friend, Dr. James Callaway in Wilkes County. They decided that it might be a good thing to settle down, Jones said.
They became members of the community, met and married sisters Sarah and Adelaide Yates. They later moved to Mount Airy, acquired land and two residences, and raised and educated 21 children. Eng and Sally raised 11 children. Chang and Adelaide raised 10 children.
“They were prosperous citizens of the community and passed away in Mount Airy at the age of 62 on January 17, 1874. They are buried in Mount Airy. The play follows the story of their lives,” said Jones.
The play is presented in conjunction with the annual Bunker Family Reunion, according to Jones, who is one of the descendants of the Bunkers.
She said descendants from all across the United States travel to Mount Airy to attend the family reunion each year.
“Descendants gather and share their lives as many of them meet at the reunion for the first time. Reunion name tags identify attendees with the name of both the twin and child of the twin that they are descended from. Hundreds of descendants live in the area and many hundreds are spread across the country and around the world,” said Jones.
The Surry Arts Council hosts a Siamese Twins Exhibit that is open daily, year round. Numerous artifacts, not usually on display, will be shared during the weekend of the Bunker Reunion, July 27 and 28. Information about the exhibit can be found at www.siamesetwinsexhibit.com.
The play begins Saturday at 3 p.m. It will also be held on Sunday at 3 p.m. and on Monday at 7:30 p.m. and on July 27 at 3 p.m. at the Earle Theatre.
Admission is $10 or free with a Surry Arts Council season pass.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Surry Arts Council at 786-7998.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.