"On Agate Hill" reviews

At North Carolina Stage Company:

Local actress Barbara Bates Smith has made a virtual career of adapting author Lee Smith’s popular novels into one-woman shows. She’s best known for “Ivy Rowe,” based on the “Fair and Tender Ladies.” Now, Bates Smith is doing Lee Smith’s latest novel, “On Agate Hill,” at the N.C. Stage Company.The two Smiths — no relation — seem made for each other. Both are Southern, born and bred.

Bates Smith is a marvel as she slips from character to character: a harsh schoolmistress, a teacher and a mountain man, each identified by a tall table with a signature item on top. But, mostly she is Molly, moving from her ‘cubby-hole’ in the wrecked plantation, to a range of sites in two states over half-century’s time... And it all moves seamlessly with Bates Smith’s skill and Suzanne Tinsley's deft direction.

Part of the glue that holds the tale together is the talented vocal, banjo and hammer dulcimer score by Jeff Sebens. The tunes chosen for this production are both familiar and new, but all aid in creating the mood necessary to convey the touching and often poignant story.

I was happy to meet you and see your wonderful performance. —Ron Rash, author

This adaptation is magnificent. It goes right to the heart of the story —Lee Smith

Your "On Agate Hill" piece is poetry —Kay Byer, Poet Laureate, North Carolina

Barbara Bates Smith is living proof that books can change lives... The Winchester Star

The evaluations were phenomenal. Your average score on a scale of one to ten was TEN!

—Silas House, Mountain Heritage Literary Festival

An unqualified rave to this actress and her musician for their production!..... Thoroughly engaging...

Rob Neufeld, Director, "Together We Read," Western North Carolina

The reception of "On Agate Hill" at Mars Hill College is an unqualified recommendation to any prospective audience. Barbara Bates Smith has done "Ivy Rowe" from Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies for years to rave reviews. This performance, with the musical accompaniment of Jeff Sebens, was fantastic. Dr. Carol Boggiss, English Professor, Mars Hill College

Mrs. Smith's performance blew me away! I still cannot see how she portrayed so many characters, each with its own voice and persona— A student of Dr. Carol Boggiss, Mars Hill College

It was cool to learn in the Q&A session that she listens to the music to stay on track —Student, Mars Hill College

With fluid transitions between characters and a sharp wit, Bates Smith drew the audience into her actions as if they were really happening.—Mars Hill student newspaper