ETSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance has been excitedly preparing for the premiere of their upcoming production,Middletown.”

The week before opening night is one of the busiest for any show, but this cast and crew have been working hard to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

Writer Will Eno’s “Middletown” is a play like no other that explores the distinct gravity of lives and perceptions within the closed quarters of small-town America.

“It is what happens between birth and death: Everything in the middle is ‘Middletown,’” said Melissa Shafer, director. “Eno is asking the audience to see the miraculous in the ordinary. In fact, there are lines some characters have about how miraculous it is to just be sitting here, breathing. Without giving too much away, it is about birth, death and everything in between.”

Newcomer Mary Swanson moves to Middletown and is greeted by numerous townsfolk, including longtime resident John Dodge. From here, the situation takes numerous turns, and audience is able to examine from a distance how seemingly minuscule events are able to move characters on a large scale through the dramatic journeys of life.

“Many topics have threads throughout,” said Shafer. “There’s addiction and suicide and all sorts of really heavy themes, but I truly think it is one of the funniest, deepest plays I have read. I am thrilled to be working on it.”

A total of 16 cast members, four student designers, and numerous crew work to transition the show through 24 distinct scenes. Anything from a local library to a kitchen to even outer space will be used as a backdrop to “Middletown.”

“I think the best part is really watching the work of so many people come together,” mused Shafer. “It is so interesting to be sitting on top of this pyramid watching everyone’s work come together into this cohesive hold. Having some hand in shaping that work is, I think, the most exciting part.”

Shafer hopes to encourage audiences from all walks of life to attend the show and see for themselves what makes “Middletown” so unique.

“A lot of people have been working hard,” said Shafer. “It is a modern take on so many themes in both a meta-theatrical and metaphysical way. We talk directly to the audience, and we engage them while making people think about everything: Religion, the meaning of life, what happens when you’re born, what happens when you die and so on. I think people will leave entertained.”

“Middletown” runs Feb. 21-24. Student and faculty tickets are $5, and outside guest tickets are $10. To purchase tickets, visit the ETSU Department of Theatre and Dance website at