Ironically, the gravesite of Floyd Collins became just the sort of tourist attraction he was seeking when the Kentucky cave explorer became fatally trapped in Sand Cave in 1925. The Theatre Arts Program at Utah State University will present the bluegrass musical ‘Floyd Collins’ from Feb. 23 to Mar. 2 in the Morgan Theatre (Image courtesy of Facebook).

LOGAN – The Theatre Arts Department at Utah State University will dramatize the life and death of an obscure cave explorer in its production of the musical Floyd Collins.

That show will debut at 7:30 p.m. in the Morgan Theatre on the USU campus on Friday, Feb. 23 and continue through Saturday, Mar. 2.

The seldom-seen production – with music and lyrics by Adam Guetell and story by Tina Landau – ran off-Broadway for 25 performances in 1996 and has since been performed in London and on regional stages here in the United States.

Director Jason Spelbring says the musical is based on real events and was one of the first productions to introduce a score featuring bluegrass and folk music to American stages.

“It’s a unique experience for any theatergoer,” according to Spelbring, “because you think it’s a musical about a guy stuck in a cave. Then you come to see it and find out that it is so much more than that.”

In the early 20th Century – during an era colorfully known as the Kentucky Cave Wars — spelunkers and property owners competed bitterly to exploit a huge network of caves in that state as tourist attractions.

While working to enlarge a small passage in the so-called Sand Cave, explorer Floyd Collins became trapped in a narrow passageway 55 feet below ground on Jan. 30, 1925.

The rescue operation to save him became a national media sensation and one of the first major news stories to be reported via fledgling radio networks.

Collins died of thirst and hunger after being isolated for 14 days and three days before a rescue shaft could reach him.

Spelbring says that, since Collin was motivated by a desire to make something of his name and leave a legacy for this family, the musical surprisingly focuses on the themes of familial bonds and human connection.

Floyd Collins also relies heavily on the set design work of Ky Trupp, who Spelbring challenged to create a stage setting that tells the story of a man trapped in a cave but doesn’t look like a cave.

Trupp’s set is very large and all one-piece, giving the show’s actors room to perform and the lighting designers the opportunity to create a world around those performers.

The color and shapes of the setting are crafted to recall the feeling of old yellowed newspapers, reflecting the media sensation that swirled around the Floyd Collins’ story.

“People should be excited to come see the show for the beautiful design work, acting prowess and beautiful music,” Trupp says.

Evening performances of Floyd Collins are slated for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, 24, 28 and 29; also on Mar. 1 and 2. A matinee performance is also set to be staged on Feb. 24.

Ticket can be purchased at the Box Office in the Chase Fine Arts Center or by going online to

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