“To Know You” captures expe​rience of MC benefactor Susan Wiley Walker

You never know when inspiration may hit you. Inspiration struck play writer and director Mary Johnson as she was walking in the beautiful college woods.

“They [the woods] were so beautiful and alive—even in the dead of winter—I felt that someone had really put their heart into caring for them,” Johnson said. “Then, when I got back to the [RT] Lodge I noticed all these photos of the same elderly lady. I asked who she was, and Gary Doyle told me her name was Susan Wiley Walker. She built the place as her home in 1932 and called it Morningside.”

This is how the play about the life of Maryville College benefactor Susan Wiley Walker, “To Know You” was born.

The inspiring play tells of the life of Walker, who lived on campus in the 1930s and ‘40s, and her impact on Maryville College as a major benefactor. It digs deep into the core of who Walker was as a person and how she greatly affected the lives of those around her in the best way possible.

“Susan Wiley Walker had wealth, it’s true, but she seemed to make it her mission to do great kindnesses for as many people as possible without making a lot of noise about it,” Johnson said. “How inspiring to see a woman on her own, in the last years of her life, doing her best work ever and having so much fun.”

Walker contributed many things to Maryville College that made it what it is today. She and her husband built the house in the Maryville College woods with the understanding that it would come into ownership of Maryville College at the time of her death. The house is still actively used by students as a popular meeting spot today.

The play “To Know You” gives the audience a truly inspiring message about kindness and the spirit of giving in times when the world needs it the most.

When asked about the importance of the message of Walker in today’s world, Johnson had this to say: “In this current time of discord, fear, and lack of civility, I think it is tremendously important to learn about someone who got up every morning thinking about how much good she could do in a day.”

The magic of theater doesn’t happen on its own, for people from all over have come together to turn Johnson’s brilliantly written script into a beautiful reality.

“It’s been such a privilege working with Martha Hess, Dr. McMahon, and Dr. Gombert on this project,” Johnson said. “The students have been fantastic, and we have actors coming to play roles from three cities and two states!”

Although some creative liberties are taken, the show is very embedded in the actual history of Walker and Maryville College.

“There are also precious antiques on stage that were lovingly loaned to the production by many people in the Maryville College community,” Johnson said. “You’ll see antique dolls, great-great grandmother purses, hand-crocheted gloves, and even an original painting by our most beloved Maryville College artist.”

The play will be performed at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2. Admissions is free with a ticket from the Clayton Center Box Office. Be sure to come and enjoy this wonderfully historic and heartwarming performance in the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall located in Clayton B!

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