A cemetery tour by candlelight among historic gravesites may seem like the setting for a Hollywood horror movie, but one such tour takes place far from California and involves history rather than horror.
The setting for this performance is Friendship Cemetery, located in Columbus, and Aiden Leise of Lake Cormorant is among the historical performers.
Students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) are producing the highly anticipated 29th annual “Tales from the Crypt,” winner of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and national finalist for The History Channel's "Save Our History" Award.
“Tales” has also been featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” published in The Atlantic, and highlighted in James and Deb Fallows’ bestseller Our Towns.
“Tales” is being held in conjunction with the annual Columbus Pilgrimage, which runs from March 28-April 6.
Beginning last fall with the start of the school year, 48 MSMS students in three 11th-grade U.S. history classes embarked on a project which included researching and rehearsing to bring Mississippians buried in Friendship Cemetery “back to life” through dramatic performances. Ten of the students were chosen to develop their characters this spring for visitors to “Tales from the Crypt.” Other researchers will serve as cemetery tour guides leading visitors among the performers.
Leise is portraying a cabinetmaker and city councilman in Columbus before and immediately after the Civil War. His subject was committed to a hospital for the insane prior to his death. Leise’s performance, in part, explores the impact of slavery and the war on the local economy.
Aiden is the son of Robert and Kalinda Leise of Lake Cormorant.
“‘Tales’ makes history personal for the students as well as the community,” said Chuck Yarborough, a member of the social studies faculty at MSMS and the project’s director.
Through research in the extensive local history resources at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, Yarborough’s students learned more than just history. This was the plan of the project’s creator, the late Carl Butler, a former colleague of Yarborough’s.
“Our students develop sophisticated research and writing skills along with critical thinking,” added Yarborough. “Then they’re challenged to turn what they learn into a performance, enabling their research subjects to come alive for our community and visitors as we honor their memory.”
Profits from program admissions are donated to charitable causes designated by the students. Over the past five years, “Tales” has raised over $30,000 for charity.
“For 29 years, Tales from the Crypt students have learned not only how to research and write, but also how they can make significant contributions to a local community,” said Yarborough.
The students selected to present their intriguing characters are performing during Pilgrimage on the evenings of March 29, April 1, 3, and 5 from 7-9:00 p.m., in Friendship Cemetery on Fourth Street South, Columbus.
Tickets are available on site and are $5 for general admission, $3 for students. For more information on “Tales from the Crypt” or the Columbus Pilgrimage, contact the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation at 800-920-35331, or visit their website at visitcolumbusms.org.