The Fairmont State Academy for the Arts will virtually present “Could you Hug a Cactus?” and an original production titled “SHINE” on Saturday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. “Could You Hug A Cactus?” directed by Troy Snyder, Technical Director and Professor of Theatre at Fairmont State University, is based on the poems of Phillip Van Wagoner, the Book by Jessica Penzias and Music & Lyrics by Denver Casado. “SHINE,” the second premier is an original show directed by Broadway artist and Clarksburg native, Kirsten Wyatt.
“I am so proud of how our Academy for the Arts Youth Theatre Company students have persevered over this last year,” said Leigh Anne Bolyard, Director of the Academy for the Arts. “We have never done an all-virtual musical production before, so this provided our students some unique experiences from learning how to create their own sets and costumes to how to get the best camera shot. It has been so much fun to watch their creativity shine through in their performances.”
“Could you Hug a Cactus?” invites the audience into a world of whimsy, and is a first of its kind hybrid musical designed specifically to be performed virtually or in person. Each of the scenes and songs are intended to be performed individually, and the production was created during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for continued performances and connections among cast members.
“To give our cast a more in-depth creative experience, Leigh Anne and I wanted something that would be more involved than just reciting a poem, or singing a song on camera,” said Snyder. “Each actor and I talked about their particular number and tried to create as much of a complete story idea as possible. Also, the students were challenged to design and create characters, costumes, props and set pieces. They also had to work with me as the director of the performances, and to make camera shots which sometimes involved multiple reshoots. In online rehearsals, the actors, their parents and I spent a lot of time talking about their designs and video shots too. We have treated every piece like a very short film.”
Following “Could you Hug a Cactus?” will be an original piece titled, “SHINE.” In consultation with the production’s director, Kirsten Wyatt, students ranging from seventh grade to high school seniors have created a virtual cabaret with songs and monologues to inspire and spread joy. “SHINE” was created on the guiding principle that music and theater are an outlet of self-expression and empowerment.
“I’m so proud of the all the work these students have put in for this production,” said Wyatt. “I wanted to create a show where the students and I collaborated fully. To me, that meant giving them agency to choose their material, making sure they were saying what they wanted to say and were empowered to bring their full artistic selves to the process. Every single one of them grew so much and I hope they had as much fun as I did.”
There are no admission costs for the shows, and each will be available for viewing on the Fairmont State Academy for the Arts Facebook page.