By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
The world premiere of a new play is an exciting thing.
Broadway, the West End in London, Pittsburgh’s Cultural District — they all offer access to hot new shows.
This year, Pricketts Fort State Park Amphitheater will share that honor.
“Farmers Market: The Musical,” presented by the Fairmont State University Town & Gown Summer Theatre program, will make its world debut June 28-30, with additional shows July 4-6. Shows begin at 8 p.m. each day.
According to Jeffrey Ingman, associate professor of theater and coordinator of the Department of Communication and Theater Arts, the school was looking for a play to perform this summer when it stumbled across the work in progress.
“We were looking for a show to perform at Pricketts Fort that fit the term ‘locally grown,’” he said.
He learned by chance that Rob Hartmann, a faculty member of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and Katie Kring, an NYU theater graduate and owner of KatieMade, a baking company specializing in artisan and natural foods, were working on a play fitting those themes.
“They videoed a reading of the play in Missouri, and when we looked at it, we realized it totally fit the bill,” Ingman said.
“When we first wrote it, I thought we’d do it outside,” Hartmann said.
While visiting Ingman, an old friend, the description of the Pricketts Fort amphitheater seemed like the perfect place to stage the play for the first time.
FSU has a long-standing partnership with Pricketts Fort to provide summer theater in Marion County.
The play itself is a musical comedy based on Kring’s own life experiences, but played up for comedic effect. Ingman described it as a “contemporary ‘The Music Man,’” while Hartmann hopes it has a similar impact on viewers as musical comedies like “Annie Get Your Gun.”
It tells the story of a young vendor named Marsha who is run out of the market by Mr. Buffalo and his cronies, who rule the market with an iron fist. She and her fellow vendors come together as a community to bring their produce to the people, free of the old market’s tyranny.
“A lot of times with theaters, they’re looking for the smallest cast,” Hartmann said.
Despite a cast of more than 40 characters, Ingman said they had no problem filling the roles.
“We had the largest audition in years,” he said, and as a result, he said “this is probably the best cast I’ve had.”
The energy in the cast has been electrifying, Ingman said, and infectious. Hartmann agreed, saying he’s written new roles into the play based on the performances he’s seen.
“What’s really cool is that future productions of this ... will be reflecting what we’ve been doing here,” Ingman said. “The cast has just taken it and run with it.”
While a great cast is essential, he said the music is really what sells the play.
“We would have full houses every night if they heard only the music,” he said.
Hartmann and Kring are both composers, and they’ve fused bluegrass, gospel, country, jazz and even Disney-style music into the soundtrack.
For those wanting a sample of the music, FSU students will be performing some songs from the play beginning at 5 p.m. today at Veterans’ Square for the sesquicentennial celebration in downtown Fairmont.
“In terms of the School of Fine Arts and theater program, we’ve been on fire recently,” Ingman said, adding that with a fantastic cast and a great play, the pieces are all there for a big success.
“It’s a family-friendly show with a high-energy cast, song and dance,” he said. “If you want to have a good time and stomp your feet and clap along, sing along, this is the place to do it.”
The cast includes: Sarah Rowan as Marsha; Brandon Lee as Richard; Joshua Brooks as Dale; Christie Brooks as Peaches; Katy Koval as Honey; Liz Rossi as Candles; Rennes Carbaugh as Amish Jams; Tyler Kovar as Chicken; Ingrid Poole as String Bean; John O’Connor as Curds; Matt Scanlon as Buttermilk, Tyler Johnson as Skim, and Samuel Spears as Half-n-Half, who are also known as the Milk Men, and Kirsten Riffle as Mrs. Half; Jason Young as Mr. Buffalo; Steve McElroy as Mr. Pork; Shawn Dunn as Mr. Sourdough; Christian Cox as Mr. Mushroom; M. Lanette Six as Mrs. Pickey; Laura Hooper as Mrs. Poker; Hannah Weakley as Mrs. Parent; Val Huffman as Mrs. Pushy; Linda O’Connor as Mrs. Persnickety; Kiya Ross as Tomato; Madison Whiting as Granola; Walter Cypher as Barney; and the Farmers Market Children played by Lydia Hatten, Dominic Mansuetto, Emma Hooper, Ariel Stern, Chris Yost, Maddie Lafollette, Grace Tillman, Sydney King, Emilee Latocha and Kailee Latocha.
Tickets are available through the Fairmont State box office at 304-367-4240 or online at www.fairmontstate.edu/tickets. The cost is $13.
Members of the West Virginia Farmers’ Market Coalition and West Virginia Farmers’ Market Association can get buy-one-get-one-free tickets.
Email Jonathan Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JWilliamsTWV.