If you have ever attended a play in Wallman Hall Theatre, you know that Fairmont State University has an active and dedicated Theatre program. During spring break 2012, all that enthusiasm and talent went on tour as part of an outreach program that the Theatre Department participates in every four years, bringing “Hush: An Interview with America” to audiences at Spencer Middle School, Blennerhassett Middle School in Parkersburg and Lewis County High School.
The play was performed three times the week before spring break at Wallman Hall for nearly 400 students, but the on-tour play saw approximately 1,000 students in its audiences.
Dr. Francene Kirk, Associate Professor of Speech Communication, accompanied the cast and crew. She said that the department tries to choose a different part of the state every time they do an outreach tour, which meant that they had never performed in any of these schools before. Their last tour in 2008 included the West Virginia School of the Deaf and Blind in Romney, as well as schools in Nicholas and Webster counties.
Besides simply performing the play, the faculty involved with the project created a teacher resource packet with lesson plans related to the show which were intended to help the teachers talk with their students about the play as well as generate questions during the talk backs the cast participated in with the students.
“The talk backs after the show were definitely the best part, because you got to hear straight from your audience what they liked or disliked and what worked and didn’t. Overall, the majority of our young audiences really enjoyed 'Hush.' I was very lucky to have this opportunity and if given the chance I would gladly do it again,” said Lakyn Arrick, a junior Oral Communications major who played Jana Roberts.
Speaking of the tour, Kurtis Dennison, a junior English major with a Theatre minor who played the Lion, said, “It was a great experience because it took us out of the comfortable stage we had been working on, forcing us to adapt on the spot when we finally saw the location. The stage set ups at other schools were very different from ours; most of their configurations were prosceniums where our stage is a 3/4 thrust. This meant that our blocking (a theatre term for movements of the actors) had to adapt to their space. Since a large portion of my blocking was running through the audience, every time I got into the space, I had to plot out my entrances and exits. This was stressful, but in a good way because I had to make a decision and move on.
With unloading the van, building the set, getting ready to perform, and every other thing we were asked to do, there wasn't time to dwell on a decision. One performance, I forgot to plan where I was going to run, so when my acting partner met up with me, in the height of the production and cues that couldn't be missed, we just had to stop arguing, calm down, run and hope it worked out!”
Accompanying the ten students of the cast and the five students in the crew was also Troy Snyder, Associate Professor of Theatre.
The cast included: Lakyn Arrick, Sara Greenfield, Kurtis Dennison, Beth Mills, Madison Whiting, Bruce McGlumphy, Tyler Johnson and Kaici Lore, Morgan Davis and Jay Lindsay. Crew included: Kayla Alred, Tyler Kover, Pam Chapman, Jenn Scholtz and Kate Thompson.
For a synopsis of the play “Hush: An Interview with America” by James Still, visit http://www.fairmontstate.edu/fsunow/hush-interview-america-stage-march.