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Stage presence: Clark designs set

ASHLAND, Ky. — Friday night, the curtain went up on the Ashland Community and Technical College production of “River Dreams,” the musical based on the autobiography “A Long Row to Hoe” by Catlettsburg, Ky., author Billy C. Clark.

The evening was no doubt a triumph for Clark, who saw his book brought to life on stage. It was also a triumph for an Ironton resident who designed the set — complete with a river.

Crosby Clyse, a sophomore at New York University, has been involved with previous theatrical productions at ACTC. When director Ed Figgins gave him the chance to turn wood and nails into a tangible form of Clark’s story, he was eager to do so.

“Crosby and I talked several months ago and he asked if I needed a designer since he was going to be here and I said, ‘Of course,’” Figgins said. “If someone can take this responsibility off my shoulders, great. He designed ‘Alladin Junior’ two years ago.”

Clyse began reading the script and making notes in October 2006. After classes ended in the spring he came home to work on the actual construction full-time.

“He does such a good job and he works so hard,” another crew member said of Clyse. She didn’t want to give her name but was willing to give Clyse credit for a job well done.

“He was here at 10 this morning. He worked all day yesterday. He works hard, but he doesn’t talk about it. I think it’s so cool that what he’s doing on the New York stage, he’s bringing back here.”

The feeling is mutual. Clyse said he was glad to be home and particularly pleased to be spending his summer doing something he loves.

“This has always been my thing, my passion,” he said. “It has always been something I wanted to do, to come back and work. I like the people.”

The production will continue this weekend. Performance times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday on the ACTC campus.