The following article by Brianne Fleming ran July 8 in The News Herald [NC]. It is re-posted here with permission.
The legendary story of Frankie Silver will be retold in Burke County again this weekend in a one-woman play entitled “Silver Shadows…a birthin,’” which is meant to give the audience more insight into what really happened in Silver’s life that led to her ultimate downfall.
Kim Cozort, who is the education director at Flat Rock Playhouse in Flat Rock, has written and conceived the play herself, along with her husband, Kenneth Kay, who directs it.
Kim Cozort and Kenneth Kay.
This is the 62nd show they have been involved in together, Cozort said of her and her husband, who have been married for almost 25 years.
“We love the work and we love each other,” she said. “We think the camaraderie with the work has helped us with the work and as a couple.”
Cozort, who is from Drexel and now lives in Flat Rock, said she was completely intrigued by the story of Frankie Silver since the first time she learned about it in her fourth-grade history class.
“I’ve been writing this for a very long time,” she said. “The story just stayed with me. When I started getting older, I thought, there’s more to this. I thought, what happened, and did it really happen the way they say?
“I started investigating a little more. I didn’t want to just know the facts, I wanted to know who Frankie was. Who was that person, and how can I make them real?”
Frankie Stewart Silver is known as the woman who was hanged in Morganton for murdering and dismembering her husband, 19-year-old Charles Silver, with an axe in the cabin that they shared with their 13-month-old daughter Nancy on Dec. 22, 1831. Silver’s family then helped her escape from jail and disguised her as a boy, but she was caught and returned to prison before her execution. The parts of Charles’s body were discovered at different times, and there are three separate graves for him at the Silver family cemetery in Mitchell County, North Carolina.
Cozort said she has been rehearsing the play for about six weeks now. It will be different from other plays about Silver’s life because one person will be playing the part of eight to 12 characters, Cozort said.
“It’s only me,” she said. “It’s unique in the fact that I’m doing all these different characters. Finally, we’re able to do this at the courthouse, and that’s unique as well. Frankie, while she was in the prison, probably heard it (the courthouse) being built. I wanted to do it in an intimate space, and I’m really excited about that.”
A photo of Frankie Silver’s gravestone, along with many other photos and trial documents, are viewable in a room at the History Museum of Burke County, NC.
Dr. William Harbinson, a music professor at Appalachian State University, will be playing original music from Appalachian culture, Cozort said.
“He wrote some beautiful music,” she said. “I’m very excited about that.”
The play will be performed on the 181st anniversary of the day Silver was hanged, which was July 12, 1833.
“It’s very significant, and it takes us back to the idea that she was real, not just a story,” Cozort said. “Something happened to her for this to happen, and I’m hoping to make that a little clearer to the audience.”
It is important for the people of Burke County to know about parts of their history, Cozort said.
“All of this took place in Burke County,” she said. “For people to celebrate their history, their heritage and know a little bit more about what life was like in their community, I think that is significant.”
It also is important to display other parts of Frankie’s life, besides the basic things that people have already heard, Cozort said.
“I just want to give a little more of who Frankie was,” she said. “People tend to think of her as just a woman who chopped up her husband and that was it. There are other factors I want people to be aware of.”
Cozort said she wants to provide the audience with another view of Frankie Silver’s story.
“There are a couple of characters that I invented, but this is all done from factual research,” she said. “I interviewed a lot of the family, and I really want it to be about Frankie’s life in 1830. It was a hard way to live, and I just want to give people another take on it, let them slow down and see exactly what life was like in that time period.”
Although it has been a challenge transitioning from playing character to character, she has enjoyed writing and creating the play, and hopes to see it performed in the future, Cozort said.
“This premiere is (so) I can see if it works and if my story is clear,” she said. “The advantage of having my husband and I working together (is) we already have ideas about the next incarnation, and have already thought of ways to add a little more.
“I would love to do it again. I’ve had such a good time working on it.”
Cozort said the show’s sponsors include the Town of Drexel, Cozort Builders, John Ervin Jr., Drexel Discount Drugs, Sossoman Funeral Home and Crematory Center, Donnie Powell and Don and Maxine McCall.
The play will be performed on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Old Burke County Courthouse. General admission tickets for adults are $20 and $10 for students 12 to 18 years old. The show is not recommended for those under 12 years old. For tickets, call the Historic Burke Foundation at 828-437-4104.