Traditionally, a cemetery is not a preferred location to find yourself at after dark.
Lake View Cemetery will be the place to be on the evenings of July 27 through July 31, however, as the Fenton History Center and the Lake View Cemetery Association present their second annual Spoon River Project.
An adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, a collection of epitaphs of dead citizens written in 1915, the Spoon River Project is the work of Tom Andolora - a Jamestown native and professional actor, writer and director. Andolora adapts several of Masters' epitaphs into a piece of theater for the production, interlacing them with live music and dance.
Performers in last year’s Spoon River Project at Lake View Cemetery are seen during one of the evening productions. This year’s project, based upon Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, will be presented Tuesday, July 27, through Sunday, Aug. 1, at the cemetery.
Joni Blackman, Fenton History Center director, said the idea for the Spoon River Project at Lake View Cemetery stems from Andolora, who believed his pet project would make a great fundraiser for the Fenton and the Cemetery Association.
The Fenton History Center's main goal is advancing local history, and the chance to bring people into the cemetery for the theater production is a wonderful avenue for it to do so, Mrs. Blackman said.
''It's amazing how just telling the stories of the individuals associated with the different monuments is enough to spark local history interest in people who didn't think they liked history,'' she said. ''They can see the then and the now - they understand Baker Street is connected with a very important family, they understand the name on the library. It really ties that in.''
While the Spoon River Project is based upon epitaphs written for citizens of a fictitious small town in Illinois just after the Civil War, Mrs. Blackman said the tales they tell fit well with those that would likely be told by citizens who lived in Jamestown during the same time period.
''It's similar to what was happening here in Western New York in many ways - the economy, the way society was set up, the regrets people had, the accomplishments people had,'' she said. ''It meets a lot of our strategic goals for adult education, and it's a different hook. People go for theater, and they're not thinking about history - it gets our name out to a whole new target audience.''
And not only is the show educational, Mrs. Blackman said, it is a great deal of fun.
''It is lit with natural light, so when the actors come up over the little hill, it is very moving,'' she said. ''It grabs your attention, because it's just not what you expect in a cemetery.''
Performances will begin in Lakeview Cemetery at 9:30 p.m. each night, and a short tour of a portion of the cemetery will precede the show - beginning at sundown - to share local history. Additional 11:30 p.m. performances will take place on Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31, with those shows including a tour of two of the cemetery's mausoleums.
A special matinee performance will also be held on Sunday, Aug. 1, at 4 p.m., with an invitation for attendees to bring their own picnic lunch to the cemetery prior to the show. A short historical tour of the cemetery will also precede the matinee show.
Marvin Community House is also partnering with the event this year, and its members will be providing refreshments before each performance.
Tickets to each show are $15 and include the preceding tours. Seating is limited, so advance purchase is recommended, but tickets will be available at the gate until shows are sold out. Tickets are available at the Fenton History Center, the Viking Trader Gift Stores in Bemus Point and Chautauqua, and the Labyrinth Press Company.
For more information about the Spoon River Project or to purchase tickets, visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org or call 664-6256.