FLEMING ISLAND – Was it murder? Or natural causes? Only the ghost knows for sure. And, during Clamour Theatre Company's first full production Oct. 11-13 and Oct. 18-20, she's coming to tell you.
Based on the historical fact of the only known incident in American legal history where the testimony of a ghost helped lead to a verdict, ZONA, THE GHOST OF GREENBRIER, by award-winning playwright Jan Buttram, is the true story of Zona Heaster Shue who reached for justice from beyond the grave.
Told with traditional toe-tapping Appalachian folk music, ZONA is a musical, a crime drama, and a ghost story.
Clamour Theatre Company aims to be Clay County's first professional theatre company. Originally hoping to acquire the historic Clay Theatre, the company has been a nomad since a rival buyer snapped up the building while Clamour was only a third of the way through their capital campaign. They are still looking for a permanent artistic home. Meanwhile, this production of ZONA will be performed at Crossroad Lutheran Church, 5101 Lakeshore Dr., Fleming Island.
"We are so grateful to Crossroad for the opportunity to mount this show in such a lovely building, fully handicapped-accessible, and with plenty of parking. It's a gift," said Artistic Director Elaine Smith.
Adapting to spaces that are not their own forces Clamour to be inventive. Crossroad has no stage and all the seating for the congregation is on the same level. Knowing that sightlines are critical to audience enjoyment, Clamour personnel had to invent a modular stage platform that quickly assembles and disassembles without tools.
Smith and her crew accepted the challenge. "Church services continue throughout our run, of course. We have to load everything out after the show on Saturday nights, including the stage itself, and load it back in for the Sunday matinees. It's going to be a big job, but the opportunity to finally do a full production, especially a production of this lovely play, is worth it."
It is Clamour's belief that a thriving professional arts organization can make a big difference to a community. Even in their early scramble to make a name for themselves, they strive to support other nonprofits by providing ticket codes to those who ask.
"We give 10% of the ticket price to the organization for any ticket purchased with its code. It's probably not a lot of money at this stage, but it might be something. It helps us get the word out, and it helps organizations that are doing good in Clay County with a little extra money."
Smith credits the CalaVida Music and Arts Festival for the impetus to step up Clamour's efforts. "Sandra Royal asked us to do a play for CalaVida in the Historic Courthouse in Green Cove Springs. We read a lot of courtroom-specific plays. ZONA was the one that jumped out as perfect for CalaVida."
Once committed to a single performance on Oct 7 – which has been "sold out" for some time – the company decided to leverage that into an eight-performance run. "Rehearsing 10 singing actors to a point of performance readiness is a big job. It seemed crazy not to find a way to do the show multiple times."
Smith has a long-standing acquaintance with ZONA's author, Jan Buttram, with whom she worked during her years in New York City.
Ms. Buttram's plays have received rave reviews in the New York Times, in Backstage, and in CurtainUp. She has won the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays. the AB*IE for best play, and is published by Samuel French, Smith and Kraus, and Heineman Books. As Founding Artistic Director Emeritus of Abingdon Theatre Company, she selected, wrote, acted, and produced 87 new plays by American playwrights.
"ZONA is a fascinating story. The music is a part of American history, and we've got some extremely talented actors and musicians in the cast," Smith said.
The cast includes Sarah Irene Diller, Danielle Dobies, Mark Dobies, Brian Johnson, Meganne Johnson, Debbie Pascoe, Samantha Pascoe, Jack Shaughnessy, Karl Shinn, and Skyler Wendorff with musical direction by Brooks Clarke.
For tickets and more details: www.clamourtheatre.org/zona