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'The Princess of Rome, Ohio' play presented at the Alban Arts Center

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

St. ALBANS -- If you are looking for some entertainment this weekend, the Alban Arts Center, located at 65 Olde Main Plaza in St. Albans, is presenting the play, "The Princess of Rome, Ohio."

The production takes place on a front porch in Southern Ohio where a dysfunctional family rehashes past occurrences that involve marital discord, business troubles among family members, old loves, and even a current online romance. Unfortunately, they choose to use their front porch to discuss these problems where the entire neighborhood has a front row seat.

"They are screaming and yelling -- airing their dirty laundry for the neighbors to hear," playwright Jonathan Joy said.

In the middle of this mix of adult conflict sits 14-year-old Hattie, who Joy says is more mature and smarter than the adults, and dreams of getting away from all of her family. Although she is sitting on the porch listening to the constant bickering and accusations, she is invisible to the group. She wants someone to listen to her, but they are too busy battling among themselves.

"The audience will be drawn to her and sympathize with her," Joy said. "We all know this family whether related to them (or not). We have all heard these arguments. "

Hattie finally gets her family's attention in a novel way and hopes to convince them to learn to communicate with each other, preferably inside the house.

The cast includes Megan Mace, Lisa Gandee, Daisy Thomas, Barrie Dailey, John Halstead, Johnny Halstead, and David Comer.

Director Tara Pauley said the challenge of directing a play that takes place on the front porch is to keep people moving around despite being limited to one area. She likened it to the stage play, "Twelve Angry Men," which is located almost entirely in the room where the jury is sequestered.

"You can't let it get static. You have to let people move naturally in their environment," she said, which in this play means people moving around the porch, going in and out of the house or into the yard.

She said some people will find the show funny, but also "close to home."

"Pretty much every character has a dysfunction of his or her own, but most of us do. Some of the humor will be poignant. It's a character-driven show with characters that are well developed," she said.

Pauley is from Charleston and graduated from Marshall University as a theatre major in acting and directing. She said she has directed quite a few plays in the last few years such as "The Glass Menagerie" and a female version of "Oliver."

Playwright Jonathon Joy, 38, grew up in Burlington, Ohio, graduated from Marshall University with an undergraduate degree in theater and a masters in English. He teaches developmental writing at Ashland Community & Technical College.

Joy said has been writing stories and poetry since he was a child, but realized at age 25 that he preferred the art of playwriting.

"I like the dialogue. I'm good with developing characters -- it's more dialogue over description -- telling the story from what they say to each other," he said.

Joy, who prefers writing comedy, said some of his plays come from personal experience, others from something he has overheard or just from his own imagination. He prefers comedy because the gratification is instant.

"I am much more comfortable with it. I like to sit in an audience and wait for people to laugh. The result is instant," he said.

Joy is the author of nine plays and the winner of the 2005 "Write Like Mamet" award. His work has been performed at "Where Eagles Dare Theatre" in New York City, First Stage in Los Angeles, the American Conservatory in San Francisco and numerous venues in Ohio and West Virginia. His writing has been published by the New York Times among others.

"The Princess of Rome, Ohio" was a finalist at the Seven Devils Play Writing Conference, a semi-finalist in Dayton Playhouse Future Fest, winner in the 2004 1st place Maier Award, and at the 2005 Columbus Fringe Festival. It premiered in Huntington in May 2005, was also performed in Columbus, Ohio, and at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City in 2009.

Adam Bryan, Director/Manager for the Alban Arts Center, calls the play a comic-tragedy.

"The playwright has done a very good job of making you laugh through the pain," he said.

The play contains strong language.

The Princess of Rome, Ohio will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 28 and 29, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 30. The performance will continue the next weekend on July 5, 6, and 7. Performances on Friday and Saturday will begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors. For parties of 10 or more, the rate is $10 for adults and $8 for students or seniors. It is best to call and reserve tickets for large groups.

The next production of the Alban Arts Center will be a children's production: "The Wind in the Willows."