By Sadie Hunter
Since 2012, Ten West Center for the Arts has been bringing true community theater to Fortville, and beginning Aug. 11, its next production, “The Burnt Part Boys,” will premiere.
“It’s set in 1960s Appalachia West Virginia, a mining town, Pickaway, West Virginia,” director Andrew Okerson said. “Ten years before the play starts, a bunch of the fathers in the town are killed in a mining explosion. It leaves a big portion of the mountainside charred black, so the locals call it ‘the burnt part.’ Flash forward 10 years, and we’ve got a group of kids listening to the radio, and they find out that the mining company is going to reopen that mine.”
The group is divided on how it feels about the mine’s reopening. Some of the older kids who work for the company have been chosen to work there, while the younger ones, who didn’t get a chance to know their fathers as well, scheme to destroy the mine permanently to honor their fathers, whose bodies were never recovered.
“Along the way, the ghosts of the fathers appear to give advice and help,” Okerson said. “Sometimes, they appear as Davy Crockett. It’s a really interesting show.”
The one-act play, which lasts approximately 90 minutes, will have a short run at the 140-seat theater from Aug. 11 to 13 and features 18 musical numbers. The theater is inside a historic building that dates to 1927,
“It (play) has a really cool Appalachian score to it,” Okerson said. “It’s all very bluegrass feeling.”
The cast of nine earned roles after auditions in May. Since then, the group has been rehearsing twice each week.
“It’s a little different from some of the bigger musicals. It’s very music-heavy and less on the production value,” Okerson said. “It’s done in the style of found (non-traditional) theater, where our set consists of a large piece of scaffolding and ramps and platforms. All of that moves around to make mountains, rivers and hillsides. There’s lots of climbing and moving around, but all of it’s done through imagination.”
Written by the American musical songwriting team Miller & Tysen, “The Burnt Part Boys” ran off-Broadway in 2010 and has only been performed one other time in Indiana.
SEE THE SHOW
What: “The Burnt Part Boys”: Locally named The Burnt Part, the Pickaway Coal Company’s South Mountain closed down after an accident in 1952 that resulted in the death of four miners, three of whom left behind children. Ten years later, Jake Twitchell is an employee of that same company, doing the same job that took his father’s life. To the dismay of his movie-buff younger brother, Pete, the Pickaway Coal Company is going to begin re-mining The Burnt Part and send down both Jake and Jake’s friend, Chet, whose father also died in the South Mountain accident. Inspired by his silver screen heroes, Pete sets out for The Burnt Part with his saw-playing best friend, Dusty, a pack full of dynamite and plans to render the mine useless. With Jake and Chet in hot pursuit, Pete and Dusty are in need of a guide and find a perfect Sacajawea in the young runaway, Frances, who also lost her father in the accident. Dangerous and heartwarming discoveries comprise every theatrical layer of the adventure on the road to the mine.
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11 and 12, 2:30 p.m. Aug. 13.
Where: 10 W. Church St., Fortville
Tickets: $10/adults, $7/students. Purchase tickets at tenwestcenter.org/burnt-part-boys.