Fotusky’s sets bring OCTC’s ‘Cinderella’ to life

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Morgan Kirner and Nick Palazzo star as Cinderella and Prince Christopher in the Ocean City Theatre Company’s production of “Cinderella.” Morgan Kirner and Nick Palazzo star as Cinderella and Prince Christopher in the Ocean City Theatre Company’s production of “Cinderella.”

OCEAN CITY – It’s a timeless fairytale: “Cinderella, the Enchanted Edition” featuring the Ocean City Pops Orchestra and the Ocean City Theatre Company will be performed live on stage 7:30 p.m. Aug. 14-16 at the Hughes Performing Arts Center in Ocean City High School.

“It’s the most magical production we’ve ever done,” said Michael Hartman, artistic director for the Ocean City Theatre Company. “It’s going to be bigger than the ‘Wizard of Oz’ for us, especially for the little ones in the audience.”

A big part of the excitement and magic, he said, is courtesy of the OCTC’s new scenic artist, Peggy Fotusky.

“Peggy’s doing a spectacular job,” Hartman said. “The artwork creates the magic, it’s really incredible.”

A very lifelike Cinderella’s castle – with arches, turrets and doorways – will spread 40 feet across the stage. The stone palace was created by Fotusky, as was the town village, which with three storefronts, stands more than 15 feet high.

And there is also the wicked stepmother’s house, a full, working carriage capable of turning into a pumpkin and a 8-foot-tall storybook that will fly across the stage at the beginning and the end of the play. Open the storybook, and there’s six beautifully illustrated pages chronicling the story.

For Fotusky, it’s a family affair as her two children, Monica, 16, and Anthony, 12, accompany her to work each day. In addition, Hartman’s father, James Hartman, builds the sets for Fotusky to paint.

With little time to spare – she started last week – Fotusky said painting is a lot of work, but a labor of love. Fotusky said that, as a fulltime job, being able to keep a paint brush in her hand while she brings theater sets to life, she is “living her dream.”

Fotusky grew up in Toms River and Seaside Heights. She graduated Monsignor Donovan High School with no clear path. She considered going to college and becoming a physical education teacher; while tossing around what she wanted to do next, she delved into the arts.

“I had a caricature stand on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights,” she said. “I had thoughts of starting a puppet theater on the boardwalk, but no one in Seaside Heights had the vision that I did for the boardwalk. They said no to my puppet theater idea.”

Disheartened, she went to work for Lucky Lou’s, airbrushing just about anything, including all of the prizes that didn’t move.

Eventually she became a mother, and she said that took her away from art and “everything else,” as she concentrated on her new baby girl.

“I ended up in Florida. I painted store fronts, did some other art work,” she said.

A few years later, she returned to her roots, enrolling in Ocean County Community College. Intrigued by the theater world, she signed up for a technical theater class and it changed her life.

“It was there that I was bitten by the theater bug,” she said.

After graduating OCCC, she went to Westchester University and continued with a focus on the arts.

“I’ve been involved with theater ever since. It’s been a long road, but I’m where I am supposed to be. I truly believe that. I love what I do and I would never want to be doing anything else.”

“I get to bring to life the creative vision of the director,” she said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to see your work on the stage and under the lights. It’s very rewarding. I just love what I do.”

She’s under extreme pressure as she embarks on a new set, but Fotusky said she never feels it.

“I don’t struggle, what really helped me was drawing the caricatures,” she said. “I’ve developed a lot of technique, ways of doing things that save me some time. With the years of experience I’ve had, and the passion I have for this type of art, it goes quickly for me.”

“Cinderella” brings many challenges. There’s lots of stone and woodwork in a fairytale castle, and it all has to look as realistic as possible.

“You have to be able to paint the stones and give them some dimension. The woodwork has to have grain. When you paint a set, it has to have depth to look real. Marble, stone, it has to look real. It’s quite extensive,” she said.

Fortusky said both of her children have been bitten by the theater bug, too.

“They help me a lot,” she said. “They are both on board, they love working with me. I am considering moving to Ocean City. I’m going to be painting for the Ocean City Theatre Company’s next show, ‘Hairspray,’ and then we’ll see where it goes. We’ll go from there.”

“Cinderella” was originally presented on television in 1957 starring Julie Andrews. The Rodgers and Hammerstein version was the most widely viewed program in the history of the medium.

Hartman said “Cinderella” is “the perfect show.”

“You have the music, Rodgers and Hammerstein, with the OC Pops, which is classic musical theater, and you have professional actors and actresses and a family fairy tale,” he said. “It’s the perfect blend. The music is really, really stunning.”

Hartman said the “youthful and impressive talents” of Morgan Kirner of Galloway will shine through as she tackles the role of Cinderella. Kirner recently appeared in the OCTC productions of “The Music Man,” “Schoolhouse Rock Live,” “Annie” and “Cats.” In June, Kirner was recognized as the 2012 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star for her talents.

“Everyone knows the story, but it’s going to be exciting for the audience to see how we do it,” Hartman said.

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling 525-9248, online at or by visiting the Ocean City Music Pier box office. Tickets range from $15 for kids under 12 to $25 for adults.

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