Mark Braswell having a great time as member of ‘Liberty’ cast

12:07 pm | July 18, 2013

When Mark Braswell was assigned the role of William Bean in the outdoor drama “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,” he had to do a little research to learn who Bean was, and what part he played in the Watauga Settlement.

“My being an active participant in the drama has made me more aware of my ancestors and the role they played in our early history, especially here in Northeast Tennessee,” Braswell said as he prepared for opening night of the drama.

Director of External Affairs at the Johnson City office of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Braswell works on environmental issues for TDEC. However, his role in “Liberty!” has allowed him to focus on bridging the gap in TDEC between conservation and environment.

“The conservation side of the department focuses on managing our state parks, so, hopefully my role in the drama will familiarize me more with that side of the department,” he shared.

This is Braswell’s first time to have an active role in the drama. In fact, it’s his first attempt at acting since high school. He became familiar with the drama through a friend, who played the character of Samuel Doak for a couple of years, and suggested that Braswell could be an “extra” in “Liberty!”

“I never thought about getting a speaking part my first time out, but I’ve had a ball. It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “The cast has been very welcoming and have offered me some pointers along the way.”
Braswell explained that his character, William Bean, settled near the confluence of the Watauga River and Boones Creek. “He was one of the first permanent settlers in the area and became good friends with Daniel Boone. Bean Station is supposedly named for him,” he shared.

Bean was also one of the long hunters who signed on with the Overmountain Men to travel to King’s Mountain, S.C., to wage a victorious battle with the British.

“It has been quite a learning experience for me. I knew some about the history of the area, having grown up in neighboring Bristol. I now live in Jonesborough, another historic town. But, this drama is such a great history lesson not only about this region, but Tennessee as well,” Braswell said.

“I think it is wonderful the way the story is told. It is colorful, exciting and very professional,” he added.

“It’s very interesting how the Watauga settlement came about. When in school I remember reading about some of the events such as the Battle at King’s Mountain and the Transylvania Purchase. I had also read about people like John Sevier, James Robertson and Dragging Canoe, but the drama connects the events and the people in a way that a textbook can’t,” Braswell said.

“Just like today, there were a lot of politics and money involved in the events of the time,” he suggested.

Because of his work schedule, which has taken him out of town from time to time, Braswell said he had to miss some practice sessions.

“The folks in the drama have been very supportive and helpful. Of course, the lines I have are limited, and my character is not relied on as much as some of the others, like John Carter, John Sevier and James Robertson,” he shared.

Braswell, who admittedly is a Civil War buff, said he has found the events surrounding the Watauga Settlement very interesting. “It really took courage on the part of our ancestors to defy the British, to brave the hardships in settling a new territory and to claim land that belonged to the Indians. They were a determined group of people,” he said.

Braswell said he would wholeheartedly recommend that young people not only see the drama, but volunteer for a role in it.
“Liberty!” will enter its second week of performances tonight. Performances are held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in July

Mark Braswell as William Bean in this year's "Liberty" production.

Mark Braswell as William Bean in this year’s “Liberty” production.

at 7:30 in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area.

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