If you are brave enough to walk down a darkened path to the Prickett Cemetery during Memorial Day weekend, you will hear “Whispers in the Wind.”
The original play, written by Fairmont State University students in Dr. Francene Kirk’s children’s theatre class during the spring 2012 semester, provides the unique opportunity to hear the voices of those who lived and died on the frontier. Participating student writers were Morgan Davis, Suzanne Hall, Kate Thompson, Kelly Blake, Kaici Lore, Jennifer Scholtz, Jessica Snyder, Shana Suesli and Lakyn Arrick.
“The processes of factual research and creative writing have come together in an original artistic product that will be both entertaining and enlightening about the lives of specific individuals who came before us,” said Melissa May, Executive Director of Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation.
Directed by Kirk, Associate Professor of Communication and Theatre at FSU, the show is comprised of nine monologues based on the lives of people buried in the Prickett Cemetery at Prickett’s Fort State Park. In between the monologues will be hymns from the 1700s and 1800s. Established in 1774 or earlier as a private burial ground, the cemetery is still in use. It contains numerous unmarked graves, as well as graves of Native Americans, settlers and veterans of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
In preparation for the writing project, Kirk shared two or three pieces from the popular “Spoon River Anthology” with her class. The students reviewed research previously done by a public history class at West Virginia University, reviewed work by Marion County historian Glenn Lough, visited Prickett’s Fort and studied materials in the library at the Fort and at FSU. Joey Madia of Seven Stories Theatre Co. and Connie Rice, a public history professor at WVU, helped work with the student writers.
“Although they are historically plausible, there is still fiction in these monologues, especially to create dramatic structure and arc. You have to fill in some of the blanks,” Kirk said.
Members of the Town and Gown Players will perform the nine roles: Matt Scanlon will portray Jacob Prickett Sr. (born in 1722); James Matthews will portray Zackquill Morgan (1735-1795); Tim Conley will portray James Chew (1745-1784); Brady Dunn will portray Isaiah Prickett (died in 1774); Shawn Dunn will portray John Champe (1757-1798); Kathy Dunn will portray Charity Prickett (died in 1833); Jay Lindsay will portray Jon T. Fimple (1827-1883); Clay Dunn will portray a Native American voice from the woods; and Kate Thompson will portray an unknown woman. The actors will not wear costumes, but will be dressed in black.
“If people enjoy the show, we may consider making it more of a realized production in the future,” Kirk said.
Performances are planned for 7 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, May 27 and 28. Tickets are $4 per person and seating is limited to 50 per show. Purchase tickets online at www.prickettsfort.org/shop or call the Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation office at (304) 363-3030. Prickett’s Fort State Park is located two miles off of I-79 at Exit 139.
Attendees will begin by gathering at the park’s Visitor Center and will be guided on a walking path to the cemetery for the one-hour production. Seats will be provided in the cemetery, but some walking will be required.