The audience that gathered in the Earl V. Dickinson Theater at Piedmont Virginia Community College on Friday night didn’t just get a show, they got a lesson in history.
“Can’t Feel at Home” tells the story of the displacement of more than 600 families in eight counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the 1930s as residences were bulldozed for the construction of Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park.
The play is centered on one of the remaining families preparing to leave their home for good.
John T. Glick, who was a physician in Elkton and Shenandoah in the ‘80s and ‘90s, wrote the play in 1998 after hearing stories from patients he was treating that were displaced.
With the help of friends Bobby Wolfe, director, and Joe Appleton, co-producer, the play made it to stage at Court Square Theater in Harrisonburg in December of 2022.
Not long after, in January of this year, Glick died at the age of 70.
“Everything he touched turned to gold,” Wolfe said of Glick.
Wolfe was a long-time friend of Glick’s; they graduated together from Harrisonburg High School in 1970.
Another friend of Glick’s, Steve Phillips, also performs in the play. Phillips was classmate, medical partner and musician with Glick. Together, they created Glick & Phillips, a musical comedy duo that played satirical songs throughout the Shenandoah Valley and commonwealth.
“It feels rewarding doing it for John Glick. I think of John when I do it as it reminds me of him,” Phillips told The Daily Progress.
Also in the cast Friday was Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook, who could be seen portraying Virginia Gov. George Peery.
Snook, who participated in theater productions in high school, said the play can help Charlottesville residents gain deeper insights into how painful the mountain evictions were to the surrounding community. While shaping his portrayal, Snook said, he drew on his memories of a summer experience that brought the tragedy of the evictions home to him.
“In 1972, I worked for a summer doing work on Skyline Drive,” Snook said. He cut overgrown brush and helped clear out stone-lined ditches and gutters that had filled with debris over the years since Civilian Conservation Corps workers had built them in the 1930s.
Snook was surrounded at work that summer not only by tangible reminders of the project to create the park, but also by the emotional impact it continues to have on local families.
“My coworkers, most of their families had been evicted and pushed down into the hollers,” Snook said. “It was a very real thing for them.
“Here in Charlottesville, we don’t always appreciate that these families were not just losing their homes, but that their government was doing it to them.”
Daily Progress features editor Jane Dunlap Sathe contributed to this story.