Dill Pickers celebrating 25 years of fun with VST show

The Dill Pickers are, from left, Scott Stewart, Norton Dill, Theresa McKibben, Kneeland Wright, Lesli Wright and Stewart Jackson.

The inaugural Community Series at the Virginia Samford Theatre has already brought us “An Evening with Mark Twain,” Gladys Improv and Here Comes Sunshine.

The fun series ends this weekend with a special event, The Dill Pickers 25th Anniversary Show, taking place Friday through Sunday.

It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the musicians and actors in Norton Dill’s troupe, which he formed for a 1999 production of “Smoke on the Mountain,” about a singing family band visiting a church for a Saturday night sing.

“After we did that show, people started asking us to perform at various events in the area,” Dill recalls. “We decided we needed to have a name. I was the only one who voted against the Dill Pickers – I didn’t feel like my name needed to be on the group – but the name has actually served us well.”

The Dill Pickers on stage.

The original group included Dill, Scott Stewart, Theresa McKibben, Kneeland Wright, Lesli Wright and Ken Coe. Coe dropped out a few years later, and Stewart Jackson joined.

“A lot of people call us a bluegrass band, but that’s not really an accurate description,” Dill says. “I have often said that we’re a musical entertainment group that owns bluegrass instruments. Yes, we play some bluegrass, but we also play a wide variety of other styles.” And the comedy elements of a Dill Pickers show are as important as the musical elements, Dill says.

For the VST show, the Dill Pickers will revisit some old favorites.

“We will be pulling material from all of our previous theatrical productions as well as material we’ve done at storytelling festivals and other types of performances,” Dill says.

Those theatrical performances include three “Sand Mountain” shows – “Sand Mountain Saturday Nite” and its two sequels. In those musicals, Dill’s six performers played multiple characters.

“In a way, I guess the show will have a bit of chronological history of the Pickers,” Dill says.

The show will also include Kyle Holman, acting as a narrator and emcee.

“This allows the story to keep moving along while the rest of us do costume changes,” Dill says.  “He’ll cover some of the back stories about our productions and we’ll provide the samples from each of the productions.”

The Dill Pickers aren’t calling it quits after a quarter-century of entertaining.

“Even though half of the group lives in Tennessee now, we plan to continue performing,” Dill says. “We can’t do our big musical-theater productions anymore because rehearsal time is so limited because of the distance.  We will still do musical gigs and we can also do more versions of the old-time radio show because in those productions we can have a script in our hands – true to the old radio comedies and dramas.

The Dill Pickers 25th Anniversary Show, at the Virginia Samford Theatre March 15-17.

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