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Play about Bear Bryant a hit for Alabama Shakespeare Fest

Oklahoman Modified: June 8, 2009 at 2:43 pm •  Published: June 8, 2009
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The 26 years since legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant died have not dimmed his fame nor the urge for 'Bama fans to revel in his story.

Now a drama about the dirt poor Arkansas farm boy who became a college football icon is coming to the city where he showcased the Crimson Tide and recorded many of his 323 victories.

Officials with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival announced Monday that they will stage the play "Bear Country" from Aug. 6-20 at the Virginia Samford Theatre. The historic theater on Birmingham's southside is just a few miles from Legion Field, where a statue of Bryant stands outside the main entrance.

The play is going on the road to Birmingham after a five-week run at ASF's Octagon Theatre in Montgomery in January and February.

The Montgomery productions, mostly sold out, were so popular they attracted tailgaters, former Crimson Tide team members and theatergoers dressed in their game-day crimson.

Written by ASF's chief operating officer, Michael Vigilant, the play has been a financial bright spot for ASF, which has struggled to fill seats during lean economic times. Earlier this year, it canceled its planned production of the musical "Les Miserables" because of slow ticket sales.

To add a little nostalgia, the Birmingham performances are being sponsored by Coca-Cola and Golden Flake, which also sponsored Bryant's popular Sunday afternoon television shows. The shows, which featured Bryant drinking Coke and eating Golden Flake potato chips while narrating replays of the previous day's game, are recreated in the play.

As he did in Montgomery, veteran ASF actor Rodney Clark will play the adult Bryant.

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