Anna Peake has played three different roles in her seven seasons with “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,” but her favorite is her portrayal of Elizabeth Maclin Carter in this year’s production of the official Tennessee outdoor drama.
“The town of Elizabethton is named after her,” Peake noted.
The organizers of the annual production do a good job educating the actors about the historic personalities they are portraying, and Peake noted that she has learned a lot about Elizabeth Carter.
During the frontier era, Elizabeth Carter would have been well known as an entertaining hostess, organizing parties and celebrations at the Carter Mansion, where she resided with her husband, Landon Carter.
“Landon Carter served as a senator for both the State of Franklin and the State of Tennessee,” Peake said. “So, Elizabeth was the wife of a senator.”
She would also have been in charge of all the domestic affairs at the Carter Mansion, which is known as the oldest frame house in Tennessee.
During a time when most people lived in log cabins and other humble structures, the stately residence built on the banks of the Watauga River by Landon Carter and his father, John, would have indeed been an impressive mansion even if it would have paled next to some modern buildings.
“It’s a very nice building,” Peake said. “People should definitely visit and tour the Carter Mansion.”
Tours can be scheduled by calling Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park at 543-5808.
“I’ve never had a small role, and I’m fine with that,” Peake said.
The role of Elizabeth Carter also features a 5-minute monologue delivered toward the end of Act Two of “Liberty.”
Peake said the monologue is basically an account of the Battle at Kings Mountain, which proved a pivotal event in the Revolutionary War in the southern United States.
“This is my second year playing Elizabeth Carter,” Peake said.
Her first role in “Liberty” involved the portrayal of a fictional young woman named “Betsy.” She has also portrayed Catherine Sherrill Sevier, better known in local history as “Bonnie Kate.”
In “Liberty,” Bonnie Kate takes part in one of the drama’s more exciting scenes when she scales the walls of Fort Watauga to escape an Indian attack. Helping her over the wall is her future husband, Revolutionary War hero John Sevier.
Legend has it that their romance began with that dramatic incident.
“She’s an audience favorite,” Peake said.
Bonnie Kate’s husband went on to become governor of both the “Lost State” of Franklin and Tennessee. As a result, Bonnie Kate served as First Lady three times, first from 1785 to 1788, when her husband was governor of the State of Franklin, as well as during his terms as the first and third governor of Tennessee, 1796 to 1801 and 1803 to 1809.
Peake has made each of her roles her own, but she said she joined “Liberty” seven years ago “by accident.”
She said she was attending a birthday party when Joe Greene, the drama’s long-time director, asked her if she would be interested in taking a role in “Liberty.”
“He gave me two weeks to get ready for a pretty big role,” Peake said.
Despite the brief time for her to prepare, Peake became immediately enamored of the annual outdoor drama.
“I’ve never actually got to see the play,” Peake said, noting she is always performing in front of the audience. “I guess I never appreciated our local history until I became part of ‘Liberty.’”
Being part of the large cast for the summer production has made her appreciate her heritage.
“It’s taught me to have a better understanding of the hard work and perseverance of our forefathers,” Peake said. “A lot of people don’t know the story of what happened here.”
Peake, who said she considers herself a natural teacher, said it’s important to learn the story of “Liberty!”
“The play is a good way to learn about your heritage,” she added.
Peake is employed as a case worker with the Solutions Source, an in-home mental health agency.
She is also pursuing her master’s degree with Argosy University in Nashville.
“I’m studying to become a counselor,” Peake said.
Peake, a lifelong resident of Erwin, is the daughter of Bill and Debbie Peake.
She welcomes the public to this year’s performance of “Liberty!”
“I really want to encourage people to come out and see our play,” she said. “They’ll learn a lot about our history and heritage.”
“Liberty!” made its 2013 debut on July 11. Performances will continue Thursdays-Saturdays, July 18-20 and July 25-27, in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton. Performances begin nightly at 7:30. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. Children 5 and under are admitted free. Information and reservations for a “dinner theater” offering can be made by calling the park at 543-5808. The park is located at 1651 W. Elk Ave., Elizabethton.