MEDIA RELEASE: New Children’s Play Coming to Downtown Clarksburg

HTA LogoThe Vintage Theatre Company is proud to announce the cast and preview performance dates for the upcoming VTC Academy Youth Troupe production of Hopping to America: A Rabbit’s Tale of Immigration.

Jason A. Young, Vintage Theatre’s Founding Producer and Artistic Director, cordially invites audiences to The VTC Cabaret inside the Uptown Event Center in downtown Clarksburg, West Virginia on Friday, August 26 and Saturday, August 27 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 28 at 2:00 p.m. The original play will also be performed on the Children’s Stage at the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival the following weekend.

“This is the second year that VTC has managed the Children’s Stage for the Festival,” said Young. “We are very excited about this year’s entertainment because we get to feature this adorable original play based on an award-winning book by a local author.”

DPW HeadshotHopping to America: A Rabbit’s Tale of Immigration by Diana Pishner Walker with illustrations by Ashley Teets is an award-winning children’s story published by Headline Books that tells the tale of love, family and friendship, and the adventurous hope associated with the promise of a better life through immigration to the New World.

The Riepule family ventures out on this brave journey from Italy to the United States, landing on Ellis Island, and settling in none other than Clarksburg, West Virginia, Walker’s former hometown and the home of the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival.

“This book was written after I stumbled upon the start of a story, a few lines about a rabbit named Joby,” said Walker. “It was in my mother’s handwriting, whose dream was to be a children’s book author. I found it after she had passed, at the bottom of an old Christmas card list; it was truly an honor to finish it for her.”

RM Celi OlivetoCeli Oliveto, of the Vintage Theatre Company’s Rustic Mechanicals, who also adapted last year’s WVIHF production of The Ogress Tales: Don Joseph Pear and the Fox, created the book’s stage adaptation.

“The book allows young readers, and now the play will allow young viewers, to experience and take pride in the Italian heritage of the north central region of West Virginia through its interesting characters and historically based situations,” said Oliveto. “Sometimes people, especially children, can feel distanced from events from the past. This book and play allow its readers and viewers to experience the history and heritage through a lens of fun and whimsy.”

Trina Byard will direct the play with Oliveto assisting. The cast includes John Honce as Joby, Noah Stalnaker as Papa Luigi, Nikki DeWitt as Momma Rosa, Mary Claire Palmer as Maria, Jayln Marie Smith as Annabella, with Callia Byard and Derek Hess serving as the show’s narrators, and Branner Rock, Hannah Randolph, Kayleigh Nutt, and Jackson Howe rounding out the cast and playing multiple roles.

RM Trina Byard“Trina and Celi are award-winning directors with local high school Thespian troupes,” said Young. “They have assembled a talented cast that should easily and with great energy bring this story to life.”

The show’s official rehearsals begin next week; however, the cast and creative team did gather last week for a meet and greet and a read through of the script.

“I was there when the children were cast in their parts and for the first rehearsal,” said Walker. “At that point, when I heard my words and Joby actually come to life out loud, it became surreal.”

Admission to the August 26-28 performances is only $5. Each presentation of Hopping to America will be paired with a performance of the children’s opera Hansel & Gretel staged by Vintage Theatre Company’s opera troupe, Montani Cantanti.

For more information or to make a reservation, email or call 1-855-VTC-8588.

“You will be amazed at this cast of talent at such a young age,” said Walker. “My hope is that all involved will gain a little better knowledge of the true meaning of immigration and the hardships that many of our immigrant family members experienced to give us a better life.”

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