Child development and puppetry major Alexandra Ashworth’s shadow puppet show, ‘Hands of Humanity,’ is set to open in May at the West Virginia Public Theatre.
The production will not only fulfill Ashworth’s remaining capstone requirements, it will be her final project as a senior.
According to the young playwright, her show was originally scheduled to premiere last year, but it was quickly delayed due to COVID-19 concerns. Since then she’s faced challenges as classes and performances transition online.
“A lot of our work is fully hands-on, fully immersive,” Ashworth explains. “There’s so many facets of theater that we explore within our studies that involve human connection and dialogue exchange.”
In January 2020, Ashworth received $5,000 worth of funding from the Cercone New Works Grant, an annual scholarship developed by WVU alum Sean Cercone to help produce student original works. A new recipient was awarded this year, so the West Virginia Public Theatre will now feature two student productions in May.
Cercone is currently the CEO and president of Broadway Licensing, a theatrical partner based in New York City. Since 2017 he and his company have licensed over 10,000 productions a year, according to their website.
“That’s kind of the process in regard to how we got here and how long I’ve been working on it,” Ashworth said. “Typically, you’d only be working on it that semester.”
During the fall semester of 2020, Ashworth competed with a number of applicants from other creative majors at WVU. By January of that year, she was awarded with the grant and began pitching her production.
“You got to sit down with the other applicants, with the other finalists, and hear their works,” Ashworth said. “It really is this beautiful, collaborative experience.”
According to Ashworth, ‘Hands of Humanity’ is inspired by her twin brother Cole who has cerebral palsy.
“I have always felt such warmth and empowerment when I hold his hand or when he comes to comfort me,” Ashworth said. “And I have often been told by my mom because of my brother, hands are so magical, they’re wonderful."
Describing the show, Ashworth said it demonstrates different ways that people can either use hands to “heal or hurt” others.
“It shows the audience both scenarios, and at the end, ultimately, encourages them to look at their own hands and see what they choose to do with them,” said Ashworth.
Last month, Ashworth performed puppetry in a COVID-19 public service announcement, created by professor of costume design Mary McClung. The PSA instructs children on how to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Ashworth was recently accepted into New York University master’s program in educational theatre. She said her long term goal hopes to one day teach other theater students on a university level.