The South Road Farm in Fayette will serve as the backdrop for “Anne of Green Gables: Part 1” on Saturday afternoon. Courtey of Melysa Cassidy

Melysa Cassidy, the owner of South Road Farm in Fayette, is not one for screaming, but she let out a little shout of joy when she hung up the phone with theater producer Chris Henry.

Henry, who grew up nearby in Winthrop and lives in New York, where she operates Royal Family Productions, wanted to stage a one-woman production of “Anne of Green Gables: Part 1” in the barn of the beautiful old New England farm and was hoping to Cassidy would be open to the idea.

She was.

“It has been my vision for the farm for a long time that this might turn into some kind of arts venue, so to have her reach out to me in times like this when the pandemic has canceled all opportunities for outdoor music and shows, I was pretty excited,” Cassidy said. “It feels like everything is closing down, and to have such a beautiful thing arrive now at our doorstep when everybody needs a little hope felt amazing.”

Nicole Renee Johnson will star in “Anne of Green Gables: Part 1.” She will play multiple roles in the one-woman show. Courtesy photo

Cassidy and Royal Family Productions will host the play at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26. The rain date is Sunday, Sept. 27. The actress, Nicole Renee Johnson, will perform in the barn, which will be open on each end. The audience of no more than 50 people will sit outside the barn, socially distanced and with mandatory masks. “People will sit among the flowers and nature and chickens, birds and alpacas,” Cassidy said. “People can see straight through the barn to the mountains and pastures, so the setting of the farm will be the backdrop for the play, which is about perfect.”

Henry adapted the young adult novel by Canadian writer Lucy Maud Montgomery for the stage as a one-woman show. In previous Royal Family versions, it has included dancers, but the pared-down Maine version will include a single actor to reduce virus risks. It is the story of 11-year-old Anne Shirley, a hot-tempered, red-headed orphan who ends up in the Cuthbert home on Prince Edward Island. The one-act play will last about 65 minutes.

It’s a play about accepting people for who they are and showing them unconditional love, Henry said. “Anne finds a family and they find a daughter, with all her foibles. She is who she is, and she is loved for that,” Henry said.

Johnson, 23, was drawn to the role because it represented the chance to work again on stage, and also because she relates to Anne’s determination to find joy in life despite its sorrows. She plays multiple roles on stage – sometimes as many as three within a single scene – and relates mostly to Anne, the title character. “I had a very chaotic family life growing up. I was never in one place too long. I was passed around between family friends and relatives, but throughout my life I always knew what my goal was, even as a kid,” she said. “I remember being in the third grade thinking, ‘I have to study hard and be smart if I want to go to the college I want to go to. That sort of drive has brought me to where I am today.”

She accomplished her goals, graduating from Baylor University and making her life in theater. The pandemic has interrupted those plans. Acting work barely exists anymore, so she is working as an online stylist for Stitch Fix in the meantime. When the opportunity to act in Maine came up, she snatched it.

“The important thing right now, what we all need to do, is to continue to fight through this and see the good and see the light in our lives,” she said.


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