Summer Stock season starts with a ‘Journey’

A tale that ends in Warren more than 200 years ago will open the 40th edition of Summer Stock at Kent State University at Trumbull.

“Journey to Ohio or, A Connecticut Belle” is based on the journal of Margaret Van Horn Dwight, who made the journey from Connecticut to Ohio in 1810 when she was a teenager and lived for a year in Warren.

Jim Canacci, an English professor at Kent-Trumbull who also is on the theater faculty, wrote the play and is directing the Summer Stock production. While he hasn’t endured a journey on par with Margaret’s, adapting his original work for the intimate Lecture Hall A stage hasn’t followed an easy path.

When he first was asked by the Trumbull County Historical Society to adapt the journal, he envisioned it as an outdoor production, one that might have included a live horse. That was impossible indoors and even creating something resembles a Conestoga wagon would have occupied too much of the stage in that theater space.

“If you’re outside and do it in an amphitheater space, you’re able to do a lot more,” he said. “In a confined space, I had to find a creative way to do some things.”

He’s tweaked the script throughout the rehearsal, whether it is logistical / technical changes or dialogue that he liked on the page that he didn’t care for when he heard the actors speak it.

“I don’t have to go to somebody and ask, ‘Can I change this?,'” Canacci said. “As a director, you feel beholden to someone else’s work. The good news is I can’t screw up my own stuff and if I do, it’s my own fault.”

The cast features Vincent Toto, Rebecca Hardman, Camilla Keener, Lizzy James, Sierra Boyle, Rachel Lee Katz, Isabella Shevetz, Drew Peterson, Ty Fowler, Colin Beebe, Robert K Ellway, Wyatt Glancy, Sarah Heavner, Lyndsey Davis, Snezana Jelic, Miko Jelic, Hannah Boyle. Jonathan Bahrey, Jordan Montgomery, Nalah Thomas and McKenna Lago.

Canacci said he’s tried to keep the show as historically accurate as possible, which means some of the dialogue sounds unfamiliar to his young actors.

“It becomes more of a teaching thing,” he said. “They’ll question the reason why you say this instead of that. It’s because that word didn’t exist then.”

If you go …

WHAT: “Journey to Ohio or, A Connecticut Belle”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through June 25.

WHERE: Lecture Hall A, Classroom / Administration Building, Kent State University at Trumbull, 4314 Mahoning Ave. NW, Champion

HOW MUCH: $15 adults, $12 for students and senior citizens and $10 for children 12 and younger. For reservations or more information, call 330-675-8887.