WHEELING, W.Va. (July 24, 2015)- – Oglebay Institute’s Parcel Players will stage “Fools,” one of Neil Simon’s most respected yet lesser-known plays, Wednesday- Saturday, August 5-8. Performances take place at 7 p.m. each night at OI’s Towngate Theatre and Cinema, 2118 Market Street, Wheeling.

A comic fable about a Russian town cursed with stupidity, “Fools” features Simon’s “brilliant use of vaudeville, slapstick, puns and word play and is hilarious and appropriate for all ages,” director Tim Thompson said.

Thompson’s cast features some of the Ohio Valley’s most talented young thespians, who are members of Parcel Players, OI’s summer youth theater program.  The Parcel Players program offers young people, from age 12 through college, a chance to act, direct, design sets, work with costumes, lighting and more.

“Parcel Players is one of the many ways that Oglebay Institute fosters young talent,” Thompson said, “Not only does the program provide a valuable learning experience and a summer of great fun for area young people but also provides the community with an opportunity to see top-notch entertainment.  I hope people will come out and support these young thespians who will impress you with their talent.”

Youth theater has been a part of OI’s programming since its founding in the 1930s.  “We believe in the importance of engaging young people in theater and are committed to providing opportunities for them to do so,” Thompson said.

The summer youth theater program was originally called Junior Theatre but acquired its current moniker — Parcel Players — in the mid 1960s when the troupe began performing in the former Pennsylvania Railroad Station on the Wheeling waterfront. A 50-seat theatre was constructed in the basement of the station, which had been used as the baggage and parcel room.  When OI acquired the Zion Lutheran Church in 1970 and transformed it into Towngate Theatre, the troupe had a new home, but its name — and its mission- remained the same.

OI holds open auditions for the Parcel Players program each spring, and the troupe stages two productions each summer.  During the school year, opportunities are available for young people to take theater classes, volunteer to work on Towngate productions, participate in an improvisation group and audition for plays when age-appropriate roles are available.

Parcel Players upcoming production, “Fools,” follows the story of the young and eager Leon Tolchinsky who arrives in an Ukrainian village to answer an ad for a new schoolteacher. Leon is ecstatic: he’s landed a terrific teaching job in an idyllic small town.  But when he arrives, everything is not what it seems in this odd little town.  He falls in love with the doctor’s beautiful daughter… only to discover that his new love, and the entire town, is under a 200-year-old curse that makes them foolish.  And, he has exactly 24 hours to break the spell, or he’ll fall under the curse, too!

Described as a “comic fable,” Thompson said, the show features a lot of vaudevillian comedy and was inspired by folk tales the playwright heard from his Polish immigrant parents as a child.

“The wonderful humor and the lovable characters combine to tell a bright, fresh and witty tale of love, destiny and the nature of intelligence,” he said.

The cast of “Fools” includes: Sam Nau, Collin Spangler, David Gaudio, Bradley Orzolek, Eric Geisel, Morgan Harris, Zachary Michael, Lindsey Wayne, Hannah Hlad and Daniel Loh.

Thompson directs. Tabatha Barnaba and Emily Capehart are assistant directors. The stage manager is Gabrielle Marshall. P.D. Greg is the set designer. The crew includes David White, Ben Conner, Chelsea McAvoy and Lindsey Wayne.

Tickets are available at the door, at or by calling 304-242-7700. Seats for all shows are just $8 each.

Towngate is located across the street from St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in the historic Centre Market district of Wheeling at 2118 Market Street.

This program is made possible through the generous support of the members of Oglebay Institute as well as with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts.