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Melodrama brings past to life

By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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A lot has changed in the past 100 years, but the Fruitvale Association is betting that land-use controversy remains the stuff of drama. This weekend’s Fruitvale School melodrama is based on railroad man Theodore Judah’s plans to extend train tracks through the Lincoln area to Auburn, and the ensuing conflict stirred up by the project. “The Handsome School Master and the Rancher’s Daughter” begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. “It’s about the townspeople of Gold Hill and the crooked people who decided they were going to buy up ranches from ranchers before the railroad came in, to make a big profit,” said Lyndell Grey, director of the Fruitvale Association, a group that manages the 119-year-old historic schoolhouse. “It’s really all about land speculation.” Grey hopes the plays will inspire a passion for local history in new Lincoln residents. “They can see that the heritage is still part of present daily life in Lincoln,” she said. “It’s almost like ghosts in the past (are) being rediscovered.” Approximately 20 local actors – including Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt in his dramatic debut as a heroic county official – will take the stage, Grey said. Lead actress Jayne Anderson plays the part of the heroine, rancher’s daughter Amy Gilmore. “She’s really into saving her town from the evil men,” Anderson said. “She tries to convince the rancher families not to sell out.” Anderson, a 13-year Lincoln resident and history lover, overcame her initial stage fright once she saw the way the community came together for a good cause. “Lindy Grey has such a long history with Fruitvale School, and doing this fundraiser keeps it alive,” she said. For the second year, in-character actors will read dramatic narratives profiling Lincoln families in addition to the main storyline. This year will introduce Maye Herold, of the family for which Crosby Herold Road is named, and Eugene Fowler, founder of Fowler Nursery and Fowler Road’s namesake. “People use the roads (named after Lincoln families) all the time, but when you know the story behind them, it makes it more interesting,” Grey said. Herold was married to one of Lincoln’s first ranchers, and her character will recount experiences picking pears to ship to the East Coast while the fruit business boomed in the early 1900s. While the Herolds made a good living packing fruit, the Fowlers capitalized by providing fruit trees from their nursery, founded in 1912. Biographical information came directly from family members, who will be introduced at the shows, Grey said. The Fruitvale Association began producing plays in 2005, when the first melodrama was developed based on the 1880s robbery of the Bank of Lincoln. The events raise money and awareness for the association to preserve the rural schoolhouse and provide education about history and agriculture. For the weekend, Fruitvale School will be transformed into Gold Hill School, which was once located just down the road, Grey said. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets for seating at the outdoor event. Gates will open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults; kids are admitted free. Advance tickets are available at the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce or the Blue Goose Produce Market in Loomis. Fruitvale School is located at 3425 Fruitvale Road, just off Sierra College Boulevard and Fowler Road. For more information, go online to www.oldfruitvaleschool.org.