BEDFORD, N.Y. – "Zona, the Ghost of Greenbrier," a play that combines a ghost story, courtroom drama and romance, will be presented by the Fox Lane Players this weekend, starting Friday and running through Sunday.
Written by award-winning playwright Jan Buttram, "Zona" has been produced only by professional theater companies and makes its amateur stage debut with the Fox Lane Players.
Buttram's play is based on a trial that took place in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in 1897 that featured the testimony of what has come to be known as the " Greenbrier Ghost ." It tells the story of Zona Heaster Shue, a young, newly married woman who was found dead under strange circumstances. In the play, while her husband grieves for his wife, Zona's mother is convinced her daughter has returned from the dead to accuse her murderer.
Before joining the faculty at Fox Lane High School as the head of the theater department, "Zona" director Ed Steele appeared in the play's world premiere, produced by New York City’s Abingdon Theatre Company at the Hudson Guild. Steele played the roles of Crookshanks and the defense attorney.
Steele said he met with Buttram, who adapted the nine-actor, 24-role professional production into a special version for the Fox Lane Players, in which most actors now play one role.
“What’s interesting about the trial is, this is the only trial in American jurisprudence where the testimony of a ghost was entered," Steele said. "But this is 1897. It would never happen today.”
The Fox Lane Players' company of 45 actors, technicians, singers and a musician has been in rehearsal since the beginning of October. The cast of 25 actors includes seniors Jenna Perlstein as Zona; Eric Simon as Zona's husband, Trout; Ursula Seymour as her mother, Mary Jane; and Oren Cohn, Emily Anderson, Sam Reig, Abby Stuckey, Brian Weeks, Erik Long and Joshua Safranek.
Steele said his students were inspired when Buttram, who serves as the Abingdon Theatre’s artistic director, came to the school to talk to them about her work.
"She spent an afternoon with them and told them about the play and how she comes up with the idea of a play," he said. "The question and answer period went on for almost an hour.”
Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mary Lou Meese Theater at Fox Lane High School. Tickets are $8 for students and seniors and $12 for adults and may be purchased by calling the box office at 914-864-3499.
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