Theater review: The 5th annual Henderson County 24 Hour Play Project

Pictured, from left, Bobby Slagle and Izzi Hughes, with other Henderson County Students. Photo by Mara Shook
Pictured, from left, Bobby Slagle and Izzi Hughes, with other Henderson County Students. Photo by Mara Shook

Watching the youth dominate Flat Rock Playhouse’s Downtown Theatre last Saturday evening makes one yearn for the effortlessness of being a kid again. The 5th annual Henderson County 24 Hour Play Project is a fun, once-a-year, one-night collaboration between Studio 52 and Henderson County Public Schools.

“It fosters trust, collaboration, and an opportunity to learn from other teachers in the county, as well as other students,” says FRP’s artistic director Lisa K. Bryant. For a mere 24 hours, the drama students from four Henderson County high schools divided into teams to write and perform a 10-minute play directed by one of the drama teachers. They each worked from a different cliché, location and time.

Perhaps it would’ve been more cohesive if everyone had the same cliché and, given the students were all scrambled, the camaraderie wouldn’t have been jeopardized by a judged competition. However, the project’s admirable theme was less about superiority and more about a learning experience. Hendersonville High’s drama teacher Todd Weakley says, “As teachers, we are always trying to find ways to have our students cooperate as opposed to competing.”

Weakley directed A Day at the DMV, which was written by Amelia Allen, Cheyenne McCall and Sierra Seevers. It’s about a DMV’s comical occurrences right before closing time on Christmas Eve. Although the plot was unclear, it did boast several promising performances by Kitty Wilson, Bobby Slagle and especially the alluring Izzi Hughes. Hughes an up-and-coming musician, playing at various Hendersonville locations. “It was a very long day but fun day,” she says. This was her second year participating. “We all pulled together. It didn’t feel like we were going to make it but we did!”

In a Roundabout Sort of Way was directed by East High’s Clay Gaitskill and written by Alley Higginbotham, Jamie Newman and Slagle. The story revolves around a clique of lounging kids being analyzed for a psychology experiment. It had too many long beats but proved the strongest as far as an intended message goes. The guitar playing Joshua Keith Morrow was the standout.

The kitschy Still With You was directed by West High’s Kelly Cooper and written by Noelle Muñoz, Eliana Kostsias and Logan Gunn. In the story, the nostalgic restaurant Mike’s On Main is being threatened with foreclosure and the founder’s ghost tries desperately to let the staff know about gold hidden in a moonshine still. Ross Davis was very commanding as the ghost and Keegan LeMay was memorable for his comedy. Lane Cooper did a great job constructing a makeshift still in only a handful of hours.

If this were a competition, the best of the bunch would’ve come from the polished team of Only Time Will Tell directed by North High’s Sydney Bailey and written by Emily Johnson, Mikaela Cox and Morrow. A rivaling school group gets trapped when they decide to break into an old bomb shelter under East High. It was surprisingly funny, with smart tongue-in-cheek writing and a whip-crack pace by Bailey. This in-sync cast makes the viewers want to hang with them. But it was Blake Kinsey who truly brought it to life with the evening’s best performance. Jacob Allen, his sidekick, was also impressive.

“I think theater is an exercise in democracy,” says Weakley. “It is an ensemble-based collaborative art. In the end, we are challenging each other, supporting each other and dreaming with each other.” Considering these plays were staged so instantaneously, each group deserves to feel very proud of its accomplishments. Make sure to support this fantastic project every year.

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About Kai Elijah Hamilton
Kai Elijah Hamilton was born and raised in Western North Carolina. A poet, screenwriter and playwright, he is also a published film and theater critic. Hamilton is a creative individual with a wide range of talents and interests. He is an Award Winning Actor (Tom in "The Glass Menagerie") and Director ("A Raisin In The Sun"). He previously served as Artistic Director at Hendersonville Little Theatre and has a B.A. in theater and film from Western Carolina University. In 2016, Hamilton's play "The Sleepwalker" won a spot in the first annual Asheville National 10-Minute Play Festival by NYS3. His play "Blackberry Winter" was a finalist in the elite Strawberry One-Act Festival in NYC winning Best Short Film/Video Diary. Hamilton is also the author of the full-length southern-gothic play "Dry Weather Wind" which has been called "Important. Relevant to the issues in today's time, and beautifully written..."

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