The Times West Virginian

May 14, 2009

Town & Gown Players set summer productions

By Debra Minor Wilson

FAIRMONT — The play’s the thing this summer, courtesy of the FSU School of Fine Arts and Town & Gown Players.

• “Always, Patsy Cline” will be presented at 8 p.m. May 30-31 and June 4-6, 12-13 at the Pricketts Fort State Park Amphitheatre.

Directed by Troy Snyder, this is the story of the friendship between Houston housewife Louise Seger and legendary country singer Patsy Cline.

In 1961, Seger met her musical idol, and they struck up a friendship that lasted until Cline’s death in a 1963 plane crash. The pen-pal relationship provides much of the plot of the show.

The play focuses on the fateful evening at Houston’s Esquire Ballroom when Seger hears of Cline’s death in a plane crash. Seger supplies a narrative while Cline floats in and out of the set singing tunes that made her famous, including “Walkin’ After Midnight, “ “Sweet Dreams” and “Crazy.”

The show combines humor, sadness and reality. It offers fans who remember Cline while she was alive a chance to look back, while giving new fans an idea of what seeing her was like and what she meant to her original fans.

• “Willy Wonka Junior” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. June 12-13 and 18-20, and at 2 p.m. June 14 at Wallman Hall, Fairmont State campus.

The story of poor Charlie Bucket and candy man Willy Wonka will be very familiar to those who have read the book or seen the first film version, said director Fran Kirk.

“The songs are there ... ‘Pure Imagination,’ ‘Candy Man,’ ‘The Oompa Loompa Songs,’” she said. “And the story is close to the movie. Willy Wonka has a contest and five children win a golden ticket. They tour his chocolate factory but don’t realize that this is really the contest.”

This selection from MTI’s Broadway Junior Collection has been specially adapted for young performers.

“All cast members in the junior version are under age 18,” Kirk said.

“The beauty is that the materials are very educational. You normally have to send the scripts back at the end of the run, but the kids can keep them. I get a director’s guide with curriculum directions to incorporate the play into math or English classes. The kids get a rehearsal CD that’s educational and also provides the students something to remember the show by.”

The 45-member cast ranges in age from 7 to 17, she added. The show last about two hours.

Major cast members are Clayton Dunn (Willy Wonka), Christopher Yost (Charlie Bucket), Tyler Kovar (Grandpa Joe), Cassidy Thompson (Grandma Georgina), Brady Dunn (Mr. Bucket), shannon Yost (Mrs. Bucket), Deidra Tobin (Grandma Josephina) and Gatsby Rider (Grandpa George).

“The play is about imagination. Charlie does the right thing in the end and is rewarded for it. Children like justice in their books and plays, and like to see the good guy win.

“Plus, Willy and the Oompa Loompas are mysterious and the book is a little scary. Kids like to be scared within limits. This is a good way for kids to live out their fears in a fantasy life. This show isn’t really scary, but people who have read the book and seen the movie recognize some scary hings in it.”

• “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” will be presented at 8 p.m. July 15-18 at Pricketts Fort State Park Amphitheatre.

Directed by Jeffrey Ingman, the comedy takes place in ancient Rome, in front of three adjacent houses. First is the brothel of Lycus, who takes his profession of peddler of fresh very seriously. Next is the house of Senex, his wife Domina and their son Hero. Last is the house of Erronius, who continually bemoans the unsolved kidnapping long ago of his son and daughter.

The play joins the ranks of Shakespeare and “Tootsie” in using mistaken identities to provide quick laughs.

Pseudolus, a slave in the household Senex and the property of Hero, is anxious to obtain his freedom. To do so, he will resort to all kinds of trickery. What follows is a convoluted storyline involving Philia, a lovely but dumb courtesan-in-training; Senex, a lecherous old man Philia thinks has purchased her; Hero, who wants her; Miles Gloriosus, the “vainglorious” soldier who does own her; fellow slave Hysterium and ex-wife Domino, both of whom dress like Philia for different reasons; and Pseudolus, who does his best keeping the three Philias from seeing each other.

In the end it is discovered that the real Philia and Miles Gloriosus are long-lost brother and sister, the kidnapped children of Erronius. Since they are siblings, Miles Gloriosus voids his contract for Philia, and she is found of sufficient high birth to become Hero’s bride. And, of course, the scheming Pseudolus wins his freedom.

For ticket information, call the box office at 304-367-4240.

E-mail Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.