The Thrilling World Premiere Of ‘Darlin’ Cory’ At The Alliance Theatre Takes Us Back To 1920s Appalachia

Performances of “Darlin’ Cory” begin on the Alliance’s Coca-Cola Stage Sept. 8 and run through Oct. 3.

Alliance Theatre

A heady brew of Southern Gothic, music, and moonshine awaits audiences in “Darlin’ Cory,” a new musical premiering at the Alliance Theatre this month. It’s a tale set in 1920s Appalachia, where a stranger rolls into a tiny mountain town, stirring up intrigues, shilling moonshine, and unraveling the town’s many secrets. Edgar Award-winning playwright and novelist Phillip DePoy wrote “Darlin’ Cory,” inspired by his studies of traditional North Georgia folk songs, one of which shares the play’s title. Original music is by Kristian Bush, frontman and lyricist of Grammy-Award-winning band Sugarland. DePoy and Bush joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the music and the mythos “Darlin’ Cory.”

Interview highlights:

An Appalachian story with roots in ancient myth:

“It all starts with mythology,” said Depoy. “Most of the folk songs that I grew up listening to, and that I learned and recorded in North Georgia in the late 60s and early 70s have deep roots in European mythology, especially Scots-Irish mythology. But a lot of these things can be traced back to quite early Greek mythology, and all of those themes are in the play. I would say it’s part Greek mythology, part Appalachian murder ballad, and part Joseph Campbell’s ‘hero’s journey,’ all wrapped up in a very attractive package with beautiful music by Kristian Bush.”

“I grew up in a town like this. I grew up in Appalachia. And even though I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, that’s not that different. The same characters were there. The pastor kind of runs the city, and everyone falls in line in relationship to that guy. Where I grew up, there were people that were, I don’t know, you might call them psychics… If they went to church, you might call them seers,” said Bush. “So those characters are also in this.”

On Kristian Bush’s songwriting for the stage:

“[Director Susan Booth] gave me some pretty strict instructions. She said, ‘This time I don’t want you to put songs in the pockets of the story, I want you to just write, and let us work around you.’ And in a lot of ways, that’s how it worked, and Phillip started to learn what a late-night email looks like from me,” said Bush. “‘Here’s a song. I don’t know what this means, I don’t even know if it belongs here, but here’s a song.’ And many times he’d be like, ‘Well I don’t know where it belongs either, but I love it.’”

“Kristian wrote two of the songs before we finished with the first meeting,” said DePoy. “Susan said a line, I said a line, Kristian said, ‘That’s a song,’ and took down notes. By the end of the meeting he already had that song in his head.”

“I’ve been writing songs for me, and myself, for a long time, and I’m kind of more interested in what happens when I rub up against what you think. So it makes me an easy-shoe-fit for somebody like Susan, to throw me into the boiling pot for whatever she’s cooking up. And I seem to enjoy it, too,” said Bush.

“Darlin’ Cory’s” allegories, lessons, and reflections on today:

“One of the things that we talked about early on… was the question of this character’s dismantling the patriarchy in her town. And so the four of us, Susan, Kristian, me, and Amanda Watkins, our producer, were on Zoom, it felt like every day through the COVID year… talking about dismantling a man who was running that part of the world so incorrectly. It was terrifically satisfying for me, and I think for all of us, to talk about taking that guy apart and bringing him down… I’m sure you understand who I’m talking about,” said DePoy.

“What’s going on outside your window, whether it be trying to stay alive, or watching the world start to address again the racism questions that are going on in our culture – you can’t help but let all that stuff in. The way that it works, in a play like this, is in many ways the way a Marvel movie or a science fiction movie might help you. It puts all of the people and the setting in a town just next to the town you’re in,” said Bush. “Whenever we can disassociate ourselves with the actual human, we can start to see it as a teaching hospital. Now… everyone’s action, everyone’s movement, everyone’s dialogue, everyone’s song, everyone’s journey is here to help us understand, ‘What in the world are we gonna do now?’”

“Darlin’ Cory” premieres at Alliance Theatre on Sept. 8 and runs through Oct. 3. Tickets and more information are available at