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Theatre Artists-in-Residence Arrive for Summer Project


Nettle Creek Players, a 501c3 not-for-profit arts organization, on Monday, June 19 will welcome to Hagerstown a troupe of visiting professional theatre artists who will live in the community for five weeks as they prepare and present the Nettle Creek Players 2017 Summer Stock Tent Theatre Season featuring productions of THE FANTASTICKS, THUMBELINA, BROADWAY ON MAIN STREET, and the NCP Young Actors Musical Theatre Workshop. Performances of THE FANTASTICKS will be at 7:30pm on July 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 & 22 with BROADWAY ON MAIN STREET at 2:00pm on July 9, 16 & 23 and THUMBELINA at 11:00am and 1:00pm on July 15 & 22, 2017. The Workshop will be offered from July 11-23, 10:00am-3:00pm.

All performances and workshops will take place in the Nettle Creek Players Show Tent at 55 W. Main Street in downtown Hagerstown, Indiana with the rain location of the Opera House stage in the Historic Hagerstown Museum at 96 ½ E. Main St. in downtown Hagerstown on Indiana State Highway 38. Tickets for THE FANTASTICKS and BROADWAY ON MAIN STREET are $15 per person with discounts available for students and groups of 10 or more. Tickets for THUMBELINA are $5 per person. Season tickets for all three shows are $35 and include unlimited tickets to see THE FANTASTICKS as well as a special "Subscribers Gift." Tuition for the Workshop is $100 per student and scholarships are available. Tickets and workshop registration can be purchased at or at Facebook/NettleCreekPlayers. Single Tickets are available in person at the Nettle Creek Players Offices in the Hagerstown Museum, 96 ½ E. Main St. in downtown Hagerstown and by phone at 765-312-2722.

The professional actors and visiting artists-in-residence that will form the 2017 company include the following: Jeremy Littlejohn, former Artistic Director of the Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres and frequent actor/director at regional theatres nation-wide; Matthew C. Scott of Orbisonia Pennsylvania who recently completed a national tour of "Million Dollar Quartet"; Griff Bludworth, a graduate of Xavier University and recent member of the Ensemble Theatre company of Cincinnati; Wendell Hester, a graduate of Valdosta State University and veteran of Peach State Summer Theatre; Ball State University graduate Olivia Schaperjohn who has performed at the Clinton Showboat Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare Festival; Ball State graduate and Indianapolis resident Katie Jones who was recently seen at Theatre on the Square; and former Muncie Civic Theatre director, Losantville native, Ball State grad and Chicago actor Marty Grubbs.

The role of "The Mute" in THE FANTASTICKS will be played by local Hagerstown Elementary School student Katee Cowan. Music Director and THUMBELINA director will be Dr. Julie Lyn Barber, Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre at Western Kentucky University. Musicians Cody Ricks of Muncie and Laura Krell of Cambridge City will provide live accompaniment with Indianapolis-based Jordan Lugar Fox and Jenny Reber serving on the staff as choreographer and costumer/public relations director respectively. Stage managers Taylor Poer and Lauren Montgomery are both students in the theatre program at Ball State University. The Technical Director is Hagerstown resident and business owner Jeremy Jennings. 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 2 ½ weeks and perform for three 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.

The artistic quality of the project is overseen by Executive Artistic Director Darrin Murrell ( who has worked as a professional actor, director, producer and educator for over 30 years with theatres across the country. He is a member of Actors Equity Association, the professional union for actors. 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. Mr. Murrell will direct both THE FANTASTICKS and BROADWAY ON MAIN STREET.

THE FANTASTICKS by Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt is the world's longest running musical - running for over 50 years in Manhattan and entrancing generations of audiences the world over. It was also the very first musical ever presented by Nettle Creek Players in its 1971 debut season.

In this funny and romantic musical about a boy, a girl, two fathers and a wall, the narrator, El Gallo, asks the audience to use their imagination and follow him into a world of moonlight and magic. The boy and the girl fall in love, grow apart, and finally find their way back to each other after realizing the truth in El Gallo's words that "without a hurt, the heart is hollow". BROADWAY ON MAIN STREET is a concert-style music revue featuring some of the greatest songs from the history of Broadway as well as a special look back at the history of Nettle Creek Players with NCP Alumni dropping in as special guests at select performances.

THUMBELINA is Julie Lyn Barber's musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story of the wish-come-true child, the size of her mother's thumb, who is stolen away by Mother Toad to become a wife for her croaking son. She escapes and embarks on many adventures aided by friendly fish and birds, impeded by a mayfly and given shelter by a mouse and mole whose ulterior motives, revealed in song, cause her to fly off with her friend, the swallow, to seek a new life among the flower fairies.

The 2017 Nettle Creek Players Summer Stock Tent Theatre Season marks the historic organization's 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 1920's through the 1970's, 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 generally 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 12-17 to learn acting and performance skills from the visiting artists and to perform in the Family Theatre production alongside their teachers. There is also a college-level internship program within the structure of the project which 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 professional artists are recruited at the annual Unified Professional Theatre Auditions ( in Memphis, Tennessee where the Executive Artistic Director joins more than 100 other theatres to screen more than 900 actors, directors, designers and technicians from all over the country who are seeking seasonal and year-round employment. By drawing from this pool of highly trained and pre-screened candidates, Nettle Creek Players can ensure audiences that the artistic nature of the summer productions will be of the highest possible quality and meet the highest of professional standards. Auditions were also held in Indianapolis and in Hagerstown to give regional and local artists an opportunity to compete for positions in the summer company.

Funding for the project is provided in part by a grant from the Wayne County Community Foundation and sponsorships by local and regional businesses and organizations including Randolph Nursing & Rehabilitation, Harrington & Hoch Insurance, Main Street Antiques Unique, The Sidewalk Café, Hagerstown Jefferson Township Library, All Coast Logistics, The Hagerstown Museum, Federicko & Bell, Bowman & Thalls Insurance, Kurtz Veterinary Clinic, West End Bank, Burns Corporation, Dance with Cindy, Mighty Muffler, Perfect Circle Credit Union, DOT Foods and Nettle Creek Hardware. Sponsorship opportunities are still available and include recognition of support in the season program and at all performances. Additional funding will come from a silent auction to be held in the lobby of the tent during performances which will feature traditional auction items as well as some special celebrity items including autographed John Mellencamp memorabilia, an autographed gift from the Broadway company of THE FANTASTICKS and tickets to The Ellen Show with Ellen Degeneres.

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

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