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Nervous About Harmony 

When the Oaklandon Civic Theatre debuts "Corn and Sausage in Harmony," a play based on the Harmony series of books by Philip Gulley, the author won't be there.

"I've never been to any of them," said Gulley, whose books have been produced as plays about a dozen times. "I'm always afraid people won't like it, so I don't go."

click to enlarge The Sausage Queen (Blaire Viehweg) harbors a dark secret. - JAN VIEHWEG
  • Jan Viehweg
  • The Sausage Queen (Blaire Viehweg) harbors a dark secret.

This play, being staged March 14-23, features summer in the fictional small town of Harmony, Ind., and all of the preparations for the September corn and sausage days.

Gulley introduced Harmony, "a place of warm friendships and hot coffee," in 2002, focusing his stories on the local Quaker meeting and the unusual folks who attended it.

Three years later, he gave Jim Trofatter, playwright of "Corn and Sausage in Harmony," permission to turn his books into plays.

"I get calls from groups wanting to dramatize something from the books, and it's always flattering," Gulley said. "I just tell them to stay true to the book and try not to damage it."

This is Trofatter's third play based on the Harmony series.

"I chose the books because the characters are memorable and the humor can be appreciated by just about everyone," Trofatter said. "Those who had any inkling of the Harmony series said the first two plays were hysterical and a great dramatization of the books. And those who didn't know the books still truly enjoyed themselves."

Trofatter said he included more heartache and humor, which can be found through the seasonal traditions, marital conflict, and the unmentionable secret of the "sausage queen."

According to the playwright, what the audience sees in this production will be half Gulley's words and half his own.

"Many times Phil didn't flesh out dialogue or scenes," he said, "so I created dialogue and expanded certain scenes that were consistent with Phil's words and characters."

Gulley grew up grew up in Gainesville, Ind., and became a Quaker minister about 30 years ago. He started writing about 20 years ago and said he has enjoyed both vocations.

He started writing while pastoring at his first church in Indianapolis, Irvington Friends Meeting. And then Gulley was asked to write the front page of the church newsletter, which he discovered he really enjoyed.

The men of Harmony, played by (from left to right) James Hayes, Dave Surina, Will Carlson, and Jeff Maess, prepare for the annual pumpkin toss. - JAN VIEHWEG
  • Jan Viehweg
  • The men of Harmony, played by (from left to right) James Hayes, Dave Surina, Will Carlson, and Jeff Maess, prepare for the annual pumpkin toss.

"One of my essays made it on the radio, and a publisher contacted me," Gulley says. "He asked if I wanted to write books, and I've been writing ever since."

Gulley began by writing three nonfiction books, and then decided to start the fiction series based on a little Quaker meeting in a small Indiana town.

"They always say write what you know and I knew about being a Quaker minister, so I started writing about that," he said.  "It was a lot of fun and my publisher seemed eager to write about it."

He went on to write eight books in the Harmony series, and then moved on to write four books on theology and spirituality.

"One reason I write, other than earning a living, is because I've always wanted to make people feel better and enjoy life," he said. "If the play does that and the books do that, I'm really happy."

And though the chances are pretty good in his favor for a successful run of this show, with plenty of happy audiences, Gulley's not taking any chances. He'll sit back and wait for the reviews from the comfort of his Hendricks County home.

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Ashley Davis / Butler

Ashley Davis / Butler

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Ashley Davis is a senior at Butler University, majoring in electronic journalism. She's from Cincinnati. After she graduates, she wants to pursue a career in digital marketing.

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