‘Otto Wood’ production back for its third year in North Wilkesboro

  • Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013 12:06 a.m.

This year’s production of “Otto Wood: The Bandit” will be the biggest ever.

With the third season of the show opening next Thursday at The Record Park in North Wilkesboro, audience members will see the largest cast in the show’s history as well as additional scenes.

“I’m super excited about this season,” director Heather Dean said. “The number 13 is my lucky number and this is 2013.”

Wood, a famed N.C. outlaw, was gunned down on a Salisbury street Dec. 31, 1930, by Police Chief R.L. Rankin. Thousands viewed his body at a Salisbury funeral home before it was transported to its final resting place in West Virginia.

Auditions for the play, which was written by Record Editor Jerry Lankford, yielded pleasant surprises.

“There is so much interest in the show that a lot more people came out to audition,” Dean said. In previous years, several cast members had to double up on parts. That is more of an exception than the rule this year.

The play is based on Wood’s life. Lankford used the autobiography written by Wood in prison as well as information gathered in interviews which began in 2004. Wood was born in Wilkes County in 1894. His first crime was stealing a bicycle as a child. From there, he graduated to gambling and making moonshine — which he learned from his Hatfield relatives in West Virginia.

Wood had a birth defect that left him limping his entire life, and he also lost a hand during a hunting accident as a boy. Although he was in trouble with the law most of his life, it seemed no bars could hold him. He escaped from numerous jails in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee. He traveled far and wide — as far away as the western United States — to elude the law. He’d often returned to Wilkes County with gifts and needed staple goods for friends and family members.

His biggest trouble came in 1923 when he was convicted in connection with the death of Greensboro pawnbroker A.W. Kaplan. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. After his final escape — Wood escaped from N.C. Central Prison four different times — he was cornered by Salisbury police and killed in a daytime gun battle on East Innes Street, with at least 11 shots fired.

Nat Padgett returns for his third year as Otto Wood. Wes Martin is back for his second season as the warden who befriends Wood and assists him in the writing of his autobiography.

The show is a multimedia experience.

Along with the action on stage, two scenes have been filmed by cinematographer Jared Shumate.

“Otto Wood: The Bandit” won multiple awards from the N.C. Society of Historians in 2012. Lankford, Padgett and Shumate received individual Paul Green Multimedia awards as well as an award for the entire cast and crew.

There is also live music before and during the show.

The Elkville String Band — Herb Key, Bill Williams, Jim Lloyd and Trevor McKenzie — return for the second year.

Show dates are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 20-22; and June 27-29. There also will be shows July 5-6.

All tickets are $7 and can be purchased in advance or at the show. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. with music by The Elkville String Band.

The Record Park is located at the corner of Fourth and E streets in North Wilkesboro.

For more information call The Record at 336-667-0134.

This year, two scenes have been added — one depicting a young woman jilted by Wood; the other, a bloody shootout in a Chattanooga tavern.

“These were interesting parts of Otto’s story,” Dean said. “Before, we just didn’t have the people to flesh out these scenes, but we do now.”

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