Murder, mayhem and fun awaits in upcoming show

Murder, mayhem and fun awaits in upcoming show

By Page H. Gifford

Fluvanna County’s longest-running community theater group, The Persimmon Tree Players, is adding some new faces, both onstage and behind the scenes, to its spring production of Fred Carmichael’s mystery comedy, Out of Sight… Out of Murder.

Among the newcomers behind the scenes is Jennifer Starkey, who is directing for the first time. A seasoned veteran onstage with Persimmon Tree Players, she also performed in productions by Langden Mason. Tom Green is also doing double duty, playing the lead and directing as well. He is teaming up with Micah Byler, whose background is in film and television, to give the show their own interpretation and vision.

“The idea of directing for the first time felt too daunting to attempt by myself, so working as a team with Tom Green and Micah Byler has been the ideal way for me to get my feet wet. It’s been an eye-opening experience, and I’ve learned a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses are as a director,” said Starkey.

Starkey gives credit to Green for being the driving force behind the production, even though he’s had to take over the lead role in the play and hand over the majority of the directing to Byler and Starkey while he’s onstage. Doing what other past directors and Beth Sherk have been doing singlehandedly for years gives these directors a new perspective from another area of the theater. A director not only has a vision and works with the actors to create that vision, but also has to coordinate all the other elements involved in the production. Even for seasoned pros like Sherk, each show has its challenges.

Starkey recognizes how time consuming directing can be now that she is in the middle of it.

“The time commitment has been the most challenging part,” said Starkey, who pointed out that aside from being at every rehearsal, she and Green have spent countless hours searching for costumes, furniture, and props for the set. “I think Tom has visited every Goodwill in a 60-mile radius at least twice, and we’ve spent more time on Amazon and eBay in the last few months than is good for a person’s soul,” she said.

Green also handles all of the rehearsal scheduling and communications to the cast, and he’s hands-on with every aspect of the production.

“With Micah’s background in TV and film, he brings a fresh eye and perspective to the team, and it makes him able to take the lead on designing the lighting and sound for the production.  He’s also very funny and is the most likely of the three of us to come up with a really comedic bit for the actors,” Starkey said.

Out of Sight… Out of Murderrevolves around an author trying to write a mystery novel in an old mansion where another author was previously murdered. At first it would seem he is struggling with writer’s block when the onset of an electrical storm brings his characters to life, causing him to lose complete control of his story, which cleverly turns inside out as the mystery is unveiled with hilarious results.

This is not Green’s first time directing nor is it his first time playing a dual role of director and actor. For Starkey, it has been a far different experience.

“I love the fact that for the first time I’m seeing the production as a whole,” she said. “As an actor, I never realized how limited I’ve been in my vision of what’s happening on stage. I’ve also really enjoyed working with this truly hardworking, dedicated cast, and seeing them bring their characters to life. Yes, they’re talented, but they’re also open and receptive to everything we throw at them, which has made the rehearsal process a pleasure.”

Newcomers to the stage include Brooke Agee, Steve Bevis, and high school student Kristen Pace. Agee has her own impressive line of credits in previous roles with Four County Players and Windmore Theatre Company. Bevis, a recent transplant to Fluvanna County, has appeared elsewhere in productions of The Music Man, Hello Dolly, and Tom Sawyer. Pace has been doing theater at Fluvanna County High School for four years, participating in multiple productions as well as in their competition one act performance, The Amazing Angel Man.

Returning to the stage after a 12 year absence is Carrie Wigal, who performed with the group in I Bet Your Lifein 2006, and has also appeared in productions in New Jersey and North Carolina. Jacob Ingersoll and Anne Loebs also return to the Carysbrook stage after first appearing in Dearly Belovedin 2018. Rounding out the cast are PTP veterans George Gaige and Deanne Cook.

“I have enjoyed teaming up with Jen and Micah on this show. They are both incredibly talented and knowledgeable directors, and it has made this process go very smoothly,” said Green. “I also have so enjoyed working with all of our new cast and semi-new cast members. Watching them grow on stage throughout this experience, and having them be so dedicated and motivated has added so much. I know our audiences will be entertained by them.”

Starkey added, “I’m really proud of what we’ve created and I can’t wait for everyone to see the finished product.”

Out of Sight… Out of Murder will be presented April 6-14 at Carysbrook Performing Arts Center. For more information visit

In addition, to continue the visual and performing art connection in the community, there will be an art exhibit by painter William Hanson with refreshments during intermission.

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