Arts & Humanities

Beneath the Surface: USU Theatre Presents 'Floyd Collins'

By Emma Lee |

The Utah State University Department of Theatre Arts presents “Floyd Collins,” a haunting musical that tells the story of Floyd Collins getting trapped 200 feet underground while attempting to turn a Kentucky cave into a tourist attraction in 1925. The production will be at the Morgan Theatre with dates in February and March.

The musical written by Tina Landau features a bluegrass and folk inspired score with music by Adam Guetell and is based on real events.

“It’s a unique experience for any theatergoer because you think it’s a musical about a guy stuck in a cave, and then you come to see it and find out that it is so much more than that,” said Director Jason Spelbring. “This musical produced in 1996 really had a lead on that bluegrass country folk sound.”

At the core of the Floyd Collins story lie themes of familial bonds and human connection.

“What got Floyd where he is was his desire to make something of his name and his legacy and his family,” Spelbring said.

With meticulous attention to detail, the stage design integrates distinctive story elements for an immersive viewing experience.

Jason Spelbring and set designer Ky Trupp worked closely to create a set that told the story of a man in the cave without having a set that looks like a cave.

Uniquely, the set is very large and all one piece, giving actors room to stretch their acting muscles and production and lighting designers the opportunity to create a world around the actors.

“We have multiple layers of multiple actors on different levels. Some as high as 14 feet and some on the Morgan deck, the actual floor of the Morgan Theatre,” Spelbring said.

The colors and shapes of the set were crafted to give the feeling of old yellowed newspaper to reflect the fake news and media whirlwind that surrounded the Floyd Collins story.

“People should be excited to come see the show for the beautiful design work, acting prowess, and beautiful music that is present in this project,” Trupp said.

The Floyd Collins theater production also coincides with the University Honors Program-sponsored Book Lab studying the book Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins. This unique alignment emphasizes the educational benefit of finding links between different disciplines.

“A historian lays down the facts of what happened. A playwright chooses which characters are going to tell the story. Adding songs changes the flavor,” Mary Heers, Book Lab leader, said. “Going from the written page to stage is a twisting turning path I can’t wait to walk down with this class.”

Within this Book Lab, students have two meetings to discuss selections from the book before attending the play for a third meeting. The lab leader has also arranged for students to meet and discuss the play with some of the actors involved for their final meeting on Feb. 28.

This show will allow students to discuss and analyze many subjects including politics, journalism, music, theatre and literature.

Witness history on stage at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23-24, 28-29, and March 1-2. A 1 p.m. showing will be on Feb. 24. Dive into the details with more info on the online info page, and purchase tickets online or at the Box Office in the Chase Fine Arts building.


Emma Lee
Communications Specialist
Caine College of the Arts
(909) 670-3273


Jason Spelbring
Assistant Professor
Caine College of the Arts
(435) 797-3022


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