A Sold-out Production by AHS Class Act Celebrates Facing your Fears
March 22, 2019
by Doug Robinson
It was Thursday night and the mysterious “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” was sold out before the curtain went up. Additional chairs were put in place, affording all those who chose to attend the play an opportunity to enjoy, laugh and celebrate the latest performance of the Alvirne High School Class Act Thespians.
The play tells the story about a fatherless boy, his mother and his faithful dog. Set in a swamp of the Louisiana Bayou, Wiley learns not only how to face his biggest fear, Hairy Man, but how to overcome him.
First published in 1976, the play is an African-American folktale “written down” in 1932. The actors were challenged to create the environment of the Louisiana Bayou solely with their talents of song and dance as the stage did not have a traditional set. Their skillful attention to the rhyme and rhythm of their melodies and dances created the environment of the untold dangers of the swamp to which Wiley had to face.
Chicagoreader.com states, “Wiley is the son of Mammy, the best conjuring woman in the southwest county. She can do just about any sort of magic — except get the Hairy Man out of Wiley’s head. The only thing protecting Wiley is his old hound dog, because everyone knows that the Hairy Man hates dogs.
“But Wiley is forced to go into the swamp, Hairy Man territory, to cut down a tree to build his dog a house. There Wiley meets and then eludes his biggest fear. That, of course, angers the Hairy Man. But Mammy has discovered that if a person outfoxes the Hairy Man three times, he has to leave that person alone forever. The rest of the play consists of Wiley trying to trick the old conjurer.”
The chorus performs magic of their own as their sounds create the illusion of a swamp, complete with a forest, trees, vines, and swamp for Wiley to engage. The only thing that Hairy Man fears is Dog. With Dog by his side, Wiley confidently enters the swamp with courage and purpose, knowing that his survival will be ok.
But, the true magic of this play is in the telling of the story of that survival. It is a survival of trust. Wiley understands what he needs to do to survive in the swamp, and he learns to trust within himself to survive the trials of Hairy Man.
With the help of his mammy, he eventually conquers his two biggest fears with that trust: Hairy Man and his own fear of the swamp.
The folk music provided by the jug band added additional authenticity and charm to the play.
Actors from the Hills Garrison School also participated in the chorus ensemble.
Class Act entered “Wiley and the Hairy Man” into the NH Educational Theatre Guild Festival, where they competed against five other schools with this one-act production.
Along with all the praise and feedback given by the judges to the schools, Jessica Taylor (Dog) received the festival’s All Star Award.
The jug band was also honored with their receipt of the All-Star Sound Design and Performance Award. The AHS students who comprised the band, not only learned their instruments, but also wrote the score for the production.