Local student performing in nationally-recognized, award-winning cemetery tour

Published 1:35 pm Thursday, April 7, 2011

A candlelight tour through historic grave sites may seem like a setting for a Hollywood terror film, but one such tour takes place far from California.

The setting is Columbus. The site is Friendship Cemetery. Taylor Galmiche of Picayune is among the young performers entertaining and informing thousands of visitors along the way.

Galmiche and other students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science are taking part in the highly anticipated 21st Annual “Tales from the Crypt,” winner of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and national finalist for The History Channel’s “Save Our History” Award.

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Galmiche says, “This is one of the most fun things that the school does. I was determined to be a part of it.”

“Tales” is being held in conjunction with the annual Columbus Pilgrimage which runs from March 28 – April 9.

Beginning last fall, 65 MSMS students embarked on a project which included researching and rehearsing to bring Mississippians buried in Friendship Cemetery “back to life” through dramatic performances. As part of three junior U.S. history classes, ten of the students were chosen to introduce their characters in the spring for visitors to “Tales from the Crypt.”

Galmiche researched and portrays Mary Jane Crump Leigh, a North Carolina native, whose  husband, Hezekiah Gilbert Leigh, was a prominent theologian and pastor who played a role in founding several Methodist colleges and universities across the South.

“It takes two full semesters to prepare for this. The first semester the instructor gives you a list of sites in the cemetery and you choose your name and research it. Then you write a large research paper on your person— mine was 12 pages long. You write a script to perform before the judging committee, based on your paper.”

Galmiche is the daughter of Courtney and Trey Galmiche of Picayune.

She says, “I related to the fact that Mary Crump Leigh was Methodist, as I am. She was strong. She moved her family to Mississippi when her husband died and raised six children by herself. They all grew up to be successful.”

Other researchers will serve as cemetery tour guides for visitors leading them among the performers.

“‘Tales’ makes history personal for the students as well as the community,” said Chuck Yarborough, a member of the social studies faculty at MSMS and the project’s director.  Through research in the local history resources at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, Yarborough’s students learn more than just history.  This was the plan of the project’s creator, the late Carl Butler, a former colleague of Yarborough’s.

“These students learn research skills and critical thinking. Then they’re challenged to turn what they learn into a performance, allowing their research subjects to come alive for the community and visitors. The students are honoring these people’s memories.”

Galmiche says, “I have a lot of fun interacting with the groups that come. I tell them I am looking for my ring and ask them if they have it. I will choose a male and compliment their hands— that always makes them laugh. I will tell them ‘I will just die if I don’t find my ring!’”

She says, “I miss my friends at Picayune High and High Tide Productions. Please tell them I hope they are doing well and think of them.”

The students selected to present their characters are performing during Pilgrimage on the evening April 8 from 7-9:30 p.m., in Friendship Cemetery on Fourth Street South, Columbus. Tickets are available on site and are $4 for general admission, $2 for students. For more information on “Tales from the Crypt” or the Columbus Pilgrimage, contact the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation at (800) 327-2686, or visit their website at <www.columbus-ms.info>.

“Profits from this go to the charity of our choice,” says Galmiche. “This makes it even more worthwhile!”