“Everything happens for a reason,” writer and director Martin Follose told the cast of “Fading Gray” in their below stage dressing room as they donned their costumes and make-up in preparation for opening night.
This wasn’t the first time this play had been performed. Six years ago, “Fading Gray” premiered for the first time at Riddle High School where Follose worked as a drama teacher. Then two years later, he sent his revised play to the UACT board only to be rejected. “At first I was angry, but after working with this cast, I realized that this play was meant to wait for them. Had it premiered sooner, who knows how it could have turned out,” said Follose.
“Fading Gray” was inspired by a book Follose read called “Undaunted Heart” about a Southern woman and a Union soldier falling in love even though her community refused to accept their love story.
Love between two people and love within a family and a set of friends blossoms in the play’s scenes, even if the characters don’t all quite know this at first. The play is about a love between people coming together to defend and protect each other even when morals and beliefs differ.
The play begins when Union soldier Cullen Gutherie, played by Peter Wickliffe, and Confederate soldier William Covington, played by UCC student Ian Whetzel, are wounded together. This first heartbreaking and compelling scene left several audience members tearful as dying William begs Cullen to deliver a final letter to his fiancée. Even though fiancée Ellie Lane lives behind enemy lines, Cullen agrees. When he finds her, Cullen doesn’t give her the letter right away. He meets Ellie’s family and friends and learns more about William, all the while fighting within himself to give her the letter.
While the plot is indeed a love story, that’s not the only place you find love here. The director and actors fell in love with the play itself. Follose spent six months researching for his play and painstakingly revised it many times throughout the years. In fact, just a month ago, he added in a scene for two of the actors because “they were phenomenal together.”
Phenomenal is indeed the correct word to use for these actors and actresses even though the cast is a young one. Ellie Lane, the main female lead, is played by 17-year-old high school student Raegan Prawitz who has been acting since she was 8. The youngest actor is 11-year-old Emma Opp who plays Lane’s younger sister Anna. With skill beyond their years, they were able to show the audience the emotions, fears and hopes of two young girls in the middle of a war.
Many cast members said they would change nothing in the script or its staging. Peter Wickliffe, who travels from Ashland for practices and performances, said, “I know it’s a weird response, but with the cast and Marty directing, I wouldn’t change anything.”