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May 23, 2013

‘Whispers in the Wind’ set at fort

Dramatized stories present accurate portrayal of life in the colonial 1700s

FAIRMONT — It’s a day for remembering.

That’s why Memorial Day was invented, after all — to commemorate those who fought and died for their country, both past and present.

Believed by some historians to have its origins in an event organized by Fairmonter Julia Pierpont, the holiday represents an opportunity for people around the country to reflect on the sacrifices made to make the United States the nation it is today.

On Sunday and Monday at 7 p.m., Pricketts Fort State Park in conjunction with the Fairmont State University Town and Gown theater program will present an opportunity to not only remember history, but witness it up close.

“Whispers in the Wind,” an original play written by students at Fairmont State University under the direction of Dr. Fran Kirk, a professor in the college’s theater department, will be performed throughout the day.

The play was written and performed for the first time last year, said Monika Koon, administrative assistant at the fort, and was a big hit.

Greg Bray, executive director of the Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation, said the school approached the fort to put together the show.

The show itself consists of a series of monologues focused around the lives of several of the people who lived around and were ultimately buried in the Prickett Cemetery at the park.

Written by students with consultation help from Seven Stories Theatre Company and a lot of historical research, the stories are dramatized, but present an accurate portrayal of life in the colonial 1700s.

Bray said the actors will be portraying eight out of the many folks buried in the cemetery. Included are big names like Zackquill Morgan, the founder of Morgantown; and John Champe, a contemporary of George Washington who was involved in a failed attempt to catch the famous traitor Benedict Arnold; as well as lesser-known figures, such as an unnamed Native American buried off to the side of the cemetery, and Jon Fimple, a Civil War veteran.

Also being portrayed are Jacob, Isaiah and Charity Prickett and an unnamed woman buried in the cemetery.

Each will deliver monologues about their lives.

“We gave them some historical background, as much as we could, on how they lived and what went on at the time,” Bray said.

Rather than come sit in an auditorium and watch actors on stage, “Whispers in the Wind” brings visitors out into the action themselves. Attendees will meet at the Visitor Center at the entrance of the park and be guided along a walking path to the cemetery.

“It’s a nice walking trail,” Bray said, and the guide helps set the mood as visitors walk the short path to the cemetery.

“If you were handicapped or something and couldn’t (walk), we’ll get you out to the cemetery,” Bray said, “but we try to get everybody to walk out.”

The cemetery itself dates back to 1774, when it was established as a private graveyard. Settlers, Native Americans and Revolutionary War veterans are scattered throughout the cemetery, interspersed with the unmarked graves of men and women lost to history.

The play celebrates the essence of Memorial Day, Bray said, hence its timing.

“(It’s) not only veterans that have died over the years, but your family as well,” Bray said, and the play centers around both; almost half the characters in the play are veterans.

“You’re looking at your community founders,” he added, men and women who not only fought for their country and communities, but built them as well.

Tickets must be purchased before the close of business Friday, Koon said. Tickets cost $4, but seating is limited to 60 people per show.

“We sold out last year,” she said.

For more information, contact the fort at 304-363-3030.

Email Jonathan Williams at jwilliams@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @JWilliamsTWV.

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