Historic Tent Theatre set to open in Hagerstown with “Into the Woods”


HAGERSTOWN, Ind. – Nettle Creek Players, a 501c3 not-for-profit arts organization in Hagerstown, Indiana, will present the 2018 Summer Stock Tent Theatre Season beginning July 13 and continuing through Aug. 5.

The season features productions of “Into The Woods,” “Hoosier Harmony,” “Master Cat: The Story Of Puss In Boots,” and the NCP Young Actors Musical Theatre Workshop. Performances of “Into the Woods” will be at 7 p.m. on July 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28, Aug. 2, 3 and 4 and at 5 p.m. on July 15.

“Hoosier Harmony” will perform at 5 p.m. on July 22, 29 and Aug. 5.

“Master Cat” has performances at 11 a.m. on July 28 and Aug. 4.

The workshop will be offered from July 24-Aug. 3, Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. All performances and workshops will take place in the Nettle Creek Players Show Tent at its new location, 150 N. Plum St., just one block north of Main Street in downtown Hagerstown, and sitting on the street between the library and the park.

Tickets for “Into the Woods” and “Hoosier Harmony” are $15 per person with discounts available for students and groups of 10 or more. Tickets for “Master Cat” are $5 per person. Tuition for the workshop is $100 per student and scholarships are available. Tickets and workshop registration can be purchased at www.nettlecreekplayers.com, in person at the Hagerstown Museum, at Facebook/NettleCreekPlayers and by phone at 765-312-2722.

“Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine takes everyone’s favorite Brothers Grimm storybook characters and brings them together for a timeless, yet relevant, piece and a rare modern classic about wishes, family and the choices we make.

“Hoosier Harmony” is a funny and heartwarming concert-style musical revue celebrating Indiana-born composers ranging from Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Harry Von Tilzer and The Hoosier Hot Shots to John Mellencamp, Michael Jackson, John Hiatt and The Ink Spots.

“Master Cat: The Story of Puss in Boots” is a hilarious musical version of the classic tale about the innocent child of a dying Miller, who ends up with nothing of his father’s estate but his dear pet cat Puss who, with clever savvy and charm (and threats of clawing to pieces anyone who doesn’t do as he says) manages to aid his new master in achieving wealth and happiness.

The 2018 Nettle Creek Players Summer Stock Tent Theatre Season marks the historic organization’s second revival season following a return to downtown Hagerstown after an absence of almost 20 years. The program has been the hallmark of the organization since its founding in 1971.

The Summer Stock Tent Theatre is one of only three remaining such programs in the country after what was, from the 1920s through the 1970s, a vibrant aspect of many smaller communities across the nation with hundreds of summer stock and dozens of tent theatres carrying on the traditions of “stock” theatre and even more historic “show wagons” that brought live entertainment into rural communities with limited access to live theatre and have been a fixture of the cultural life of America since early in the 19th century.

The project begins with recruiting and hiring a seasonal staff of professional and emerging professional actors, designers, directors and technicians to live in Hagerstown for several weeks in the summer while they rehearse and perform for the public a series of three different theatre pieces in repertory in a giant circus tent on Main Street in downtown Hagerstown. The shows include a traditional Broadway musical, a concert-style musical revue and a family theatre show for younger audiences.

In addition to the plays and musicals, the actors also serve as teachers of a Young Actors Workshop, which provides opportunities to area students ages 10-17 to learn acting and performance skills from the visiting artists and to perform in the family theatre production alongside their teachers. There also is a college-level internship program within the structure of the project that gives college students and emerging professionals the opportunity to have hands-on experience in all aspects of theatre production and performance as they work alongside the visiting professional artists for the entire summer season.

The Nettle Creek Players 2018 troupe of visiting professional theatre artists who will live in the community for nine weeks as they prepare and present the performances include the following:

Craig Underwood is a Chicago-based member of Actors Equity Association, the professional union for actors and stage managers. He has performed at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Actors Theatre of Indiana, The Mercury & Paramount Theatres in Chicago and will play the role of The Baker in “Into the Woods.”

Dr. Julie Lyn Barber is assistant professor of musical theatre at Western Kentucky University and has performed for 10 years in Cabaret Poe with Q Artistry in Indianapolis, in many shows with American Heritage Theatre Company and Portland Center Stage in Oregon and The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres as well as numerous theatres in her native Canada. Barber will play The Witch in “Into the Woods,” choreograph “Hoosier Harmony” and direct “Master Cat.”

Jacob Clanton comes from Memphis, Tennessee, where he is a graduate of the University of Memphis. He has been seen on stage at Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Conway Dinner Theatre and Ohio Light Opera. Clanton will play Jack in “Into the Woods,” be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony” and a teacher and performer for “Master Cat.”

Nikki Savitt of Illiiopolis, Illinois, holds an MFA in child drama from the University of North Carolina and a veteran of the regional theatre world, having performed at institutions such as Circa 21 Dinner Theatre, Broadway Palm Theatre and Troupe America National Tours. Savitt will play Jack’s Mother in “Into the Woods,” be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony” and a teacher and performer for “Master Cat.”

Amanda Boldt lives in Carmel, Indiana, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She has performed in Indianapolis and as a singer with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and at the Columbia Club Cabaret. She will portray Cinderella in “Into the Woods,” be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony” and a teacher and performer for “Master Cat.”

Ike Wellhausen is an Indianapolis-based actor, Ball State University theatre graduate and native of Crawfordsville, Indiana. Wellhausen has worked at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Red Barn Summer Theatre and with Broadway star Sutton Foster at Indianapolis’s Landmark Theatre and at Joe’s Pub in New York City. He will play Cinderella’s Prince in “Into the Woods,” be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony” and a teacher and performer for “Master Cat.”

Emily Chodan is a recent graduate of Wright State University where she performed in many productions in addition to her work at Mill Race Players and at the Judson S. Erne Auditorium in her native Columbus, Indiana. She will portray stepsister Florinda in “Into the Woods” and a serve as a teacher and performer for “Master Cat.”

Christina Barnes is a native of Zionsville, Indiana, and is a musical theatre major at Ball State University. She has performed at Festival 56 Summer Theatre, Stagedoor Manor and in several shows at Ball State. Barnes will play the role of Rapunzel in “Into the Woods.”

Four performers who were in the 2017 Nettle Creek Players company are returning for a second season. They include:

Cincinnati actor Griff Bludworth, a graduate of Xavier University and recent member of the Ensemble Theatre company of Cincinnati, will play The Narrator and Mysterious Man in “Into the Woods” as well as serve as a teacher and performer in “Master Cat.”

Ball State University graduate and Evansville, Indiana, native Olivia Schaperjohn, who has performed at the Clinton Showboat Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare Festival, returns from an internship at California’s B Street Theatre to portray Little Red in “Into the Woods,” be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony” and a teacher and performer for “Master Cat.”

Ball State graduate and Indianapolis resident Katie Jones, who was recently seen at Theatre on the Square and Myers Dinner Theatre, will play The Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods,” be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony” and a teacher and performer for “Master Cat.”

Former Muncie Civic Theatre director, Losantville native, Ball State graduate and Chicago actor Marty Grubbs returns to serve as associate artistic director for the season and director of “Hoosier Harmony.”

Several local performers also will join the company. They include the following:

Dustin Summan is from Bentonville and graduated from Connersville High School and Indiana University East. He is a frequent performer at Richmond Civic Theatre and will perform with Richmond Shakespeare Festival in June. Summan will play Rapunzel’s Prince in “Into the Woods” and be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony.”

Linda Herrick Ward is a native and resident of Connersville, works for the Miami University Alumni Association and is a veteran of the Nettle Creek Player Stage having been a company member and board member many times over the years, beginning with the second season in 1972. She currently serves as secretary of the NCP Board and will play the dual roles of Cinderella’s Stepmother and Little Red’s Granny in “Into the Woods.”

JD Sams is a native of Connersville and studied at both Ball State University and the American Musical & Dramatic Academy. He is the lead singer of popular local band The Smileys and will play The Wolfe in “Into the Woods” and be a member of the ensemble of “Hoosier Harmony.”

Lily Ballenger is from Cambridge City and has performed at Richmond Civic Theatre. Ballenger will play stepsister Lucinda in “Into the Woods.”

Jordan Paul Wolfe is from Richmond where he studies at Earlham College. A graduate of Lincoln High School in Cambridge City, he has performed at Richmond Civic Theatre and Earlham Theatre Company and will play The Steward in “Into the Woods.”

Administrative intern will be Ohio Northern University student Bridget Mahoney.

Music director for the season will be Ball State University accompanist Cody Ricks, who led the NCP orchestra in 2017.

The visiting artists will live in the community, most in the homes of local volunteers and some in apartments made available by a local realtor. They will rehearse the shows for two-and-a-half weeks and perform for four weekends while teaching the camp during the performance weekdays. Local volunteers are providing the company with daily breakfast service and many local businesses are offering special rates and discounts to the players. Following the season in Hagerstown, performers in the “Hoosier Harmony” show will take that show on tour, visiting regional senior centers and playing a two-week run of shows at the historic Brown County Playhouse in Nashville, Indiana.

The artistic quality of the project is overseen by Executive Artistic Director Darrin Murrell (www.darrinmurrell.com), who has worked as a professional actor, director, producer and educator for more than 30 years with theatres across the country. He is a member of Actors Equity Association, the professional union for actors and stage managers. He has developed and managed numerous Young Actors Workshop educational programs in Rome, New York, Chicago, Portland, Oregon and Muncie, Indiana. He is former executive director of Muncie Civic Theatre and has served as president of the Indiana Community Theatre League and Regional Representative to the American Association of Community Theatres. Murrell will direct “Into the Woods.”

For tickets and information visit www.nettlecreekplayers.comand Facebook/NettleCreekPlayers or call 765-312-2722.

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