Bright Star will light up Penn Yan stage

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
The cast of Bright Star prepares for this weekend’s production at Penn Yan Academy auditorium.

Travel to the past this weekend as the Penn Yan Academy Drama Club presents the new hit musical Bright Star.

Based on a true story and featuring the breathtaking Bluegrass tunes of powerhouse duo Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star is a powerful tale of love, loss, and hope set in the American South. Switching between the 1920s and the 1940s, the play centers around Alice Murphy (Senior Camryn Webber), a youthful, free spirit at age 16 and a well-respected magazine editor in her adulthood. Alice’s story unfolds in both decades as audiences see how the events of her youth shape her into the woman who she grows up to be.

When young soldier Billy Cane (Freshman Garrett Hilton) arrives back home after his time in World War II, he decides that it is finally time to follow his lifelong dream - to “follow his own bright star” and become a writer. Encouraged by his father (Freshman Joseph Droney) and his oldest friend Margo (Senior Genevieve Elliott), Billy travels to Asheville, where he plans to do anything it takes to get himself published in the Asheville Southern Journal. Billy is faced by a number of roadblocks, including the journal’s assistant editors Daryl (Sophomore Massan Jensen) and Lucy (Senior Alexia Strong), and Alice Murphy’s own impossibly high standards as the lead editor of the publication. 

Something about Billy sticks with Alice though, making her think back to her younger years and the obstacles that she faced. These struggles included her strained relationship with her own parents (Freshman Johnathan Shaw and Senior McKelvie Jensen), and her whirlwind romance with Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Senior Jacob Eskildsen) the son of the town’s morally bankrupt Mayor (Senior Collin Cummings), who questioned the impact the match would have on Jimmy’s prospects in life and, by extension, the legacy that he worked so hard to build. These tensions and their shocking outcomes have a critical and lasting impact on Alice and the person she becomes.

The production also features a strong vocal and dance ensemble including Kayla Andersen, Morgan Andersen, Kendall Bailey, Triana Burgos-Farnan, Mackenzie Chapman, Cadence Cummings, Riley Dallos, Samantha Denson, Madison Flynn, Kaley Griffin, Mary Gulick, Meredith Hanley, Jayden Hollister, Amelia LeVea, Vanessa Martinez, Madeline Martini, Keuka Miranda-Wiltbeger, Lenitza Ochoa, Lauren Schilling, Sophia Smith, Emmaleigh Stempien, Emilie Trab, Samantha Trank, and Kyle Wheeler. The pit orchestra, conducted by PYA Band Director Jennifer Chaffee, is comprised of traditional bluegrass instruments including banjo, mandolin, and fiddle.

Bright Star, directed by PYA Choir and Theatre teacher Jessica Kinsey and stage managed by Junior Casey Marcellus, will run Thursday, March 12 through Sunday, March 15 in the Penn Yan Academy Auditorium. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows will begin at 7 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Presale tickets are available at Longs’ Cards and Books, Milly’s Pantry, Pinckney Hardware, or online at for $9 for students/seniors and $10 for adults. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $10 for students/seniors and $11 for adults. Remember, all of the PYA Drama Club’s productions are entirely self-sufficient and financed by ticket sales and community donations.