Dying for a good time? Some folks did

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When you’ve waited too late to call, and the tickets are sold out, there’s only one surefire way to get into Angels on the Bluff.


The annual fundraiser for the Natchez City Cemetery has grown in popularity so much over the last few years that the event frequently sells out. Locals and visitors alike bundle up, ride a school bus to the cemetery, and walk down its paths to hear tales from ghosts.

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A crew of actors dresses up in period clothing to portray the ghosts, telling the stories of those buried in the cemetery.

The characters and the stories change from year to year, so it’s always a new show.

I attended as a spectator last year. This year, I was dead.

Acting is not my thing. Standing in the cold darkness is worse.

So my “performance” was simply a favor to a friend and a good deed for the cemetery.

Besides, I was promised that there was very little acting involved.

My part involved dressing up as a nurse at Natchez’s Charity Hospital, circa 1970s, and walking through a scene carrying a lantern.

I was essentially backdrop to the much more talented speaking styles of Darrell White.

I only filled the role Saturday night, which turned out to be the warmer of the two nights.

But the real fun began after my 13 walkthroughs were over.

My husband Kevin — who played a soldier in the skit — and I were part of the very first skit on the tour. So once the last tour came past us, we were free to join the group and hear the rest of the tales.

“Cemetery’s closed,” barked young Justin Robinson, dressed in full uniform and carrying a gun.

The present-day Natchez Police Department officer was portraying his grandfather, longtime NPD Chief J.T. Robinson.

The police officer blood Justin shares with his grandfather made his skit realistic and captivating. The elder Robinson’s nearly unbelievable tales made it interesting.

Robinson told of the time the 1960s police chief took Charles Evers — Medgar’s brother — from a jail cell to act as a mediator for a possible race riot. Evers calmed the crowd, and Robinson took him back to jail, because he had time to serve.

On down the path, Margaret Martin was waiting for her newest class of students to arrive. The Natchez teacher — for whom the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center on Homochitto Street is named — provided a history lesson of sorts, on herself.

Martin taught school for more years than I’ve been alive, and in her 80s she decided to join the Peace Corps.

Martin’s great niece came from out-of-town to play the fascinating part.

Many more stories dotted the streets of the cemetery Friday and Saturday nights. If you missed it, make yourself a promise to go next year.

And if you are worried about getting tickets, take your death into your own hands.

Contact the Natchez City Cemetery Board about helping out.

Many locals have requested more nights of Angels on the Bluff, but that will never be possible without a large pool of actors from which to pull.

Putting on the event takes a big time commitment from cemetery board members, volunteers and the actors.

Without these folks the cemetery is truly dead.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.