Nathan Singer, the director for TheatreUNCA’s student production of the family play, Wiley and the Hairy Man, found the inspiration for the play’s theme outside of the theater.
“As part of my position as director, it's my responsibility to create concepts and presentational methods for a production that will excite the audience, give myself a strong connection with the work, and will equally be able to inspire the actors and designers,” Singer explained.
“So while reading Wiley and the Hairy Man, I continually asked myself what importance can this script give to its audiences beyond a fun time and an experience into the world of children's theatre and folklore,” said Singer. “At the time I was a part of the introductory course ENVR 130 with Professor [Landon] Ward, and I found the class to be very interesting, alarming, and inspiring.
“Taking the passion I gained from Professor Ward's class, I began research into the popular method of upcycled theatre, and began to clearly see how it could be related to this particular play. The play focuses a lot on its setting within the swamp, so while thinking about what belongs there it also became easy to consider what did not belong there.”
What sets apart the production of Wiley and the Hairy Man at UNC Asheville from other productions is the use of upcycled materials in the design of the set, costumes, and makeup.
The department began collecting recyclables over the summer by asking donations from the public. At one point, the theatre was filled to capacity with plastic bags, bottles, and assorted materials. “There were more than eighteen hundred plastic bags donated to us and made into plarn, or plastic bag yarn. There were hundreds of plastic bottles, cans, cardboard boxes, styrofoam sheets and inserts, and electronics donated to our performance,” said Melissa Benson, the production’s stage manager.
“I hope all of our audiences walk away understanding even a fraction of the symbolism we've incorporated into this production: the style of children's theatre, the elements of the Voodan faith, and even our commentary on our society's relationship with trash and litter. I especially hope people see that everything has the potential to be upcycled,” Singer said. “With as many non-biodegradable plastics and products we're creating today, it's important to think outside of the box as to how we can reduce and reuse them.”
Wiley and the Hairy Man tells the story of young Wiley, his conjuring mother Mammy, and his faithful companion Dog as he tries to outwit the Hairy Man and overcome the fears that come with being a young boy. Wiley and the Hairy Man was published in 1976 for families and young audiences and is set in the bayou near the Mississippi River.
The all-student cast also includes Ryan Miller, Dylan Murray, Morgan Fuller, Nicholas Lanier, Julian Gonzalez, Michelle Troszak, Justin Day, Stacie Stewart, and Bryan Marks. They have rehearsed for approximately 12 hours a week since October 10 with choreography rehearsals from dance students Alexandra Griffin and Lane Wagner. Students working backstage under the supervision of Sylvia Pierce, program coordinator for UNC Asheville Cultural Events and Special Academic Programs, have constructed the set and props for the production.
“Theatre can happen anywhere and anyway; it's all about storytelling,” Singer said. “I know all six shows are going to be a blast!”
Learn more about TheatreUNCA, including the upcoming spring productions, at https://drama.unca.edu/theatreunca-mainstage-season.
Story by Megan Triplet '16
Photos by Leslie Frempong '16 and Amber Abunassar '16