FAYETTE — A one-woman show from a New York City production company is set to provide some Halloween fright at South Road Farm in Fayette.

New York City’s The Royal Family Productions is set Saturday to host “Fireside,” an intense show based on literary classics, starring Nicole Renee Johnson.

The show brings big-city entertainment to central Maine, but with a special twist that only the local environment can give.

The Royal Family Production group usually operates out of a theatre in Times Square, according to director and Winthrop native Chris Henry. She said the coronavirus pandemic forced the group to pivot from its usual New York City location and attempt to make the show go in a different way.

Chris Henry during rehearsals Sunday at the South Road Farm in Fayette, where her company, Royal Family Productions, will stage “Fireside” this weekend. The theatrical, dance-infused, one-woman show will be performed in front of a crowd under a large, heated tent. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The owner of South Road Farm, Melysa Cassidy, bought the farm last year from the family of a Royal Family official, which led to the connection with Henry and eventually the hosting of the first production at the farm, “Anne of Green Gables: Part 1.”

Henry said she also called in favors from other people. For example, she said Dennis Price, a Readfield selectman and president of Monmouth’s Cumston Hall, provided her with equipment for the shows.


“We had a lot of people who were willing to help,” she said. “I think being vulnerable and asking people for help in this time is hard and I felt like the community came together.”

Cassidy said she put most of her money into renovating a barn for events and weddings, and two rooms for a bed-and-breakfast at the property, but the pandemic complicated both of those income streams. She said the first show was “amazing,” and breathed creative energy back into her.

“Nobody made any money and nobody cared,” Cassidy said. “The pandemic was hard on everyone for various reasons, for most artists we are used to living without money. We’re not used to living without creative outlets.”

MacKenna Cote swings from the rafters Sunday at South Road Farm in Fayette while rehearsing the musical component of a production of “Fireside,” which will be staged by Royal Family Productions this weekend. The theatrical, dance-infused, one-woman show will be performed in front of a crowd under a large, heated tent. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Henry said the idea with the Fayette productions is to create work that could allow theaters to operate, even when it’s impossible to pack the theater. She said these shows could also provide insight for other theaters that are struggling to operate during the pandemic.

“If we can create a product, it would help other theaters, too,” she said.

“Fireside” is an adaptation of four pieces: “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W.W. Jacobs; “The Interlopers,” by Saki; “Cremation of Sam McGee,” by Robert Service; and The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe.


Johnson, a Dallas-based actress, will appear on stage with dancer Erica Misilo.

Johnson starred in the previous Fayette production of “Anne of Green Gables: Part 1,” which drew about 150 guests. Johnson said the trip to Maine to participate in that production was her first time in the state.

“I loved it,” she said. “In Texas, we don’t get trees that change colors and the weather like that.”

Johnson said it was a professional goal to perform in a one-woman show, but it presents her with unique challenges like memorizing an entire script rather than a portion of lines and audio issues from Zoom rehearsals before the show.

“I never really have trouble memorizing lines. but memorizing a full script is something totally different,” she said. “We have a lot of music in the show, but the sound lags. It looked like we were all on different time (during rehearsal).”

Set designer Kyle Frank measures a chest Sunday while lighting designer Ashely Braga installs bulbs at the South Road Farm in Fayette while arranging a production of “Fireside,” which will be staged by Royal Family Productions this weekend. The theatrical, dance-infused, one-woman show will be performed in front of a crowd under a large, heated tent. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Johnson said the show reminds her of reading a spooky story to an audience of elementary school students and using creepy voices for different characters.


“Theatre is not like film, we’re not under the impression that it’s real life,” she said. “When it’s one person on stage with a dancer, you get to project your own imagination onto this play, and dive completely in with us.”

Henry said she became a fan of Edgar Allan Poe in a high school English class, which ties the production to her hometown. She said each story ties in a theme — such as guilt, making promises and fate — that is important in the current era.

Cassidy said the theatre experience begins during the drive to Fayette, during which she experiences a “transformation.”

“By the time I even arrived in this town, I was already transformed,” she said of her previous trips to the farm from her previous home in New York City.” There’s something very magical and grounding about being here.”

Henry said, at the previous production, attendees “felt normal” during the show and were able to socialize a bit with one another.

The one-hour performance will be held in a heated tent, and patrons will be seated 6 to 8 feet from one another and more than 15 feet from the performer. All who attend must wear masks throughout the performance. Only 65 guests will be allowed inside the tent.


Some aspects of the performance are not intended for children and parental guidance is suggested.

The performance will be at South Road Farm, at 220 South Road in Fayette.

Tickets are $35 for preferred seating, $20 regular seating and $250 VIP tickets are available. If delayed, the show will be performed Nov. 1.

Royal Family Production describes itself as cultivating raw talent and giving space to artists of all backgrounds at any stage of their career.

The company celebrates the work of female artists, playwrights of color, works with LGBTQ themes and artists of all ages and body types.

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