All the greatest destinations in the world have at least one. New York Harbor is home to the Statue of Liberty. Northern Arizona cradles the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon. Cawker City, Kansas boasts the largest ball of twine. And Plains, Georgia is home to the only 13-foot-tall statue of a grinning peanut in honor of U.S. President, Jimmy Carter.
But Beaver Gap, Pennsylvania is home to nothing of particular note. Sure, there’s something to be said for its small-town charm. The people are nice enough. And the area is low on crime.
Still, one can’t help but notice when strolling down Church Street that businesses are being boarded up at an impressive rate. Residents fear that if the town’s city council doesn’t do something soon, Beaver Gap will be looking at fiscal calamity!
Here is where our story begins in FST’s World Premiere production of Visit Joe Whitefeather (and bring the family!). Four city council members have gathered to brainstorm a way to save their dying town from economic collapse by putting Beaver Gap, PA on the map.
Their great big idea? To rebrand their town to honor a dead, Native American war hero. True, he never actually visited their town in his lifetime, but that’s just a minor technicality. They’ll erect a memorial monument in his honor, and soon enough, their endeavor will be drawing crowds that rival those of the tomb of the unknown soldier…right?
“This play is full of comedy,” said Director Kate Alexander. “The loveable, innocent, and charming characters of this play are so deliciously misguided, and they so easily convince themselves of the worth of their proposal.”
It’s these rich characters that drive the comedy in this new play. We meet the mayor, Walt. This rebranding concept is his brainchild. Then there’s Lucy, an idealistic young woman from California with a creative side and a concern or two about this avant-garde tourism strategy.
Bob is the town’s sole police officer, and he finds himself most days with a lot of time on his hands. And Abigail is Beaver Gap’s librarian with a daytime passion for Dewey Decimal and an evening passion for a rollicking good time.
For award-winning playwright Bruce Graham, a good comedy ultimately comes down to one thing: does the audience laugh? “The first thing I want to do is entertain,” said Graham.
Inspiration for this play struck for Graham when he learned of a real-life Pennsylvania town with a very similar origin story.
“I grew up thinking that Jim Thorpe, PA was the home of Jim Thorpe,” said Graham of the charming tourist town in the heart of the Pocono Mountains. “It wasn’t until I got to college that someone informed me that not only was he not born there—he never even visited. The absurdity of this sat in the back of my mind for many, many years.”
FST played a key role in the development of Visit Joe Whitefeather…, commissioning the work in 2020. The theatre has continued to support the work at each stage of its evolution, providing artistic support and audience feedback through online and fully staged readings. Now, FST is thrilled to finally bring Sarasota audiences the play’s World Premiere production.
Actress Kim Crow, who plays an older version of the character Lucy in FST’s production, performed in the play’s staged reading as part of FST’s 2022 Burdick New Play Festival. Now, she returns to reprise her role in this quirky comedy on FST’s Mainstage.
“I can’t wait to be part of this production,” said Crow. “When I first read the play, I couldn’t put it down. It is so funny and true to itself. Each character is so beautifully written. Audiences are sure to love it. Come on down to FST! And bring the family!”
Visit Joe Whitefeather (and bring the family!) plays in FST’s Gompertz Theatre starting April 5th. For tickets and more information, click here.
Header Images: Ellie Mooney and Malka Wallick. Photo by John Jones.