Covid-19 Musical Commissioned  by The Landes Arts Center in Petersburg: Seeks stories, actors, and crew from Mineral County

For Immediate Release – May 17, 2021

The author of McNeills Rangers, Vana Nespor, returns to the region to write and direct a new musical called, These Months of Our Lives. Commissioned by the Landes Arts Center, the play focuses on local experiences during each of the months of the pandemic, March 2020 through March 2021. The Landes Arts Center is actively seeking stories about that period and actors, singers, and crew from Mineral County as well as Grant, Hardy, Hampshire, and Pendleton. Mineral County residents interested in submitting a story or trying out for the play, are asked to email Nespor at She maintains, “We need all the help we can get!”

Rehearsals and casting will be in person on May 25 and 26 at 6 p.m. in Petersburg at the Landes Arts Center. Casting, rehearsals, and crew meetings will continue beginning June 1 using Zoom. Participants will be asked to attend in-person rehearsals only two weeks before the show opens on October 8, 9, and 10. This makes it possible for families and individuals from further away to participate. The Arts Center hopes to tour the musical starting in Keyser and is looking for a free or low-cost performance space.

Like many performance venues, the Landes Arts Center in Petersburg has been shuttered for more than a year. It needed a kickstart, something that would invigorate the community. And, its president, Phyllis Cole longed for something to bring people together after the terrible isolation and loss of the pandemic. She reached out to her old friend, Dr. Vana Nespor, who had just retired from Bay Path University in Massachusetts. Nespor immediately suggested creating a musical theater production based on local stories of the past year, the tragic and the funny, and drawing in as many people as possible from across the five counties of Hampshire, Mineral, Pendleton, Hardy, and Grant. Cole responded, “It’s perfect. Mountains, floods, wars, and pandemics can’t defeat us, and we won’t let them harden our hearts or keep us apart.”

Nespor says that many of the stories she has received so far are tragic, but others are humorous which fits perfectly with her idea of what musicals should be. She points out that this uniquely American art form, gives people a safe way to process the impact of trauma and loss. She cited AnnieFiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Phantom, and McNeill’s Rangers. “All of these shows draw on tragic circumstances yet each offers hope. Nespor describes her desire to give back to the area by creating such a show, “These people, this place, changed my life forever,” she insists. Nespor found her way to Keyser in the summer of 1981 and directed several shows for Apply Ally players including Arsenic and Old LaceFantastiks, and The Apple Tree, before writing and directing McNeill’s Rangers in 1984 with the late Dr. John Hawkins, of Potomac State, who composed, orchestrated, and performed the entire score based on Civil War tunes. Nespor then moved to Petersburg as Director of the South Branch Valley Center of Shepherd University, then Shepherd College. She helped dozens of men and women finish their college degrees and directed more than twenty musicals and dramas for the community and high school.  

  For more information or interviews, please contact:  

Phyllis Cole, President, Landes Arts Center:,  304-668-2499

Julia Hartman, Executive Director, Landes Arts Center:, 615-504-9698

Vana Nespor, Author/Director of These Days of Our Lives:,  413-214-8111

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