BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College Theatre Department will open the 2017-18 season with its production of Jocelyn Beard’s, The Ornamental Hermit, at Bethany’s outdoor amphitheatre near Steinman Hall.

Three evening performances are scheduled for September 14, 15, and 16, at 6:30 p.m., and a Sunday matinee on September 17, at 2 p.m.

The Ornamental Hermit, set on the Rivermede plantation, South Carolina in 1860 is a rollicking tale of a spoiled Southern belle, a slave rebellion, love, mistaken identities, kissing bandits, and lots of plot twists. All in all, it’s a humorous approach to some very serious topics.

Two sophomores, Kerry Kerr (Atlanta, Georgia) and Epiphany Charles (Gaithersburg, Maryland), play slaves, Joe and Mehitable, who, though in love are at odds about escaping the plantation.

Senior Maclaine Murad (Bridgeport, Ohio) plays the Scarlett O’Hara-inspired character Lily, precocious and self-absorbed who matures over the course of the play. Sophomore Logan Mayhew (Morgantown, West Virginia) fills the role of her stepmother, a Yankee transplant whom Cedric (senior Maxwell Hardt of Bethany, West Virginia) has married for her fortune. The title role of The Ornamental Hermit is played by senior Elias Stebbins (Washington, Pennsylvania). At first, he seems to be a mysterious stranger who has stepped right out of one of Lily’s Romantic novels, but his true identity will keep the audience guessing until the end.  Rounding out the cast are Jess Donato of Butler, Pennsylvania, as Cedric’s tippling sister and guest artist Daniel Loh of Wheeling, who plays Mr. Seely, Rivermede’s overseer. Or is he?

Directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Luke Hardt, who says, “The first thing that makes this play so funny is that there really were ornamental hermits on Southern plantations and English estates in the 19th century. So, it’s based on something true. But then the playwright draws these largely ridiculous characters to use humor to highlight the absurdity of slavery.

“At Bethany, we have some unique resources, such as the Amphitheatre,” says director Hardt. “I’m always looking for plays that benefit from being done outside. The Ornamental Hermit is perfect.”

“Another point of pride is that as an educational program, we’re not compelled to limit our selections to plays that are already popular. I’m hopeful that a large audience will take the trip back in time to Rivermede for this hilarious and thought-provoking play.”

The production crew includes Jordan Moore (Washington, Pennsylvania), Caitlin Hanna (Washington, Pennsylvania), Serenity Brown (Bloomingberg, New York), and Toshia Rush (Alum Bank, Pennsylvania).

Admission for the performances is free, but donations are accepted.

The Bethany Amphitheatre is a natural hillside located directly behind Wailes Theatre in Steinman Hall.  The audience is encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets as there is no formal seating.  In the event of inclement weather, the performance will be held inside Wailes Theatre.

For more information, call 304.829.7124.

About Bethany College

Bethany College is located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.