Playbill Picks: November local theater highlights

FALL FESTIVITIES: Xpress takes a look at upcoming local theater productions. Photo by iStock

If you’re a fan of local theater, Western North Carolina offers plenty of options. Below are some highlights of productions hitting various stages across the region.

One-woman show

Over the past six years, area theatergoers have seen Paula O’Brien on a variety of stages, including 35below, N.C. Stage Company, Parkway Playhouse and most recently the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, where she played Prospero in Montford Park Players’ The Tempest.

Now the Ireland native takes on the challenge of a one-woman show in Who Does She Think She Is?, which runs Friday, Nov. 3-Sunday, Nov. 5, at The Magnetic Theatre. Described as “part memoir, part cabaret and all heart,” the production finds O’Brien reliving some of the highlights of her many lives. Steve Sensenig accompanies her on keyboards as she performs songs that tie in with the stories, as well as a few O’Brien originals.

“To get to open up about some areas of your life to an audience like this can feel pretty vulnerable,” O’Brien says. “I’m so grateful people are willing to take this risk with me, and I want them to be fully entertained and leave the show with smiles on their faces, delighted for the experience.”

For more information, visit

Aesop rocks

In the wake of its wildly fresh take on Macbeth, Flat Rock Playhouse keeps the creativity high with Slowpoke! The True Story of a Tortoise & Hare, running Friday, Nov. 3-Sunday, Nov. 5.

Written by the theater company’s resident music director, Ethan Andersen, the Appalachian-set, family-friendly musical adaptation of Aesop’s fable centers on Tori the Tortoise, who runs the Slow & Steady Brake Shop in Fable Farms. When Harriet the Hare comes to town from the big city and threatens to change Fable Farms forever, Tori reluctantly agrees to a race for the future of her home. With the help of her friends, Ruben the rooster and Bea the bumblebee, Tori learns the importance of community and to embrace what makes her unique.

“It’s been incredibly exciting working on this brand-new musical with our cast of 17 local students, six young professional apprentices and beloved local actor Damian Duke Domingue,” Andersen says. “Our community cast members are receiving a high-caliber professional theater experience, learning alongside our professionals as we create this show from the ground up.”

For more information, visit

Staged stunners

Just under two years ago, Stephanie Hickling Beckman, managing artistic director of Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective, and Aaron Snook, co-founder and curator of American Myth Center, launched A Different Myth. The initiative offers Black playwrights a chance to develop their work with experienced mentors, directors and actors before eventually performing their plays in front of an audience at the Tina McGuire Theatre, Different Strokes’ black box home in the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

Two plays from A Different Myth are at the staged reading juncture. Lisa Langford‘s Dear God will be performed Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11, followed by Mildred Inez LewisJuked on Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18. Both readings take place at the Tina McGuire Theatre and feature all-Black casts. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

“We are depending on audiences for both readings to provide valuable feedback to the playwrights as they prepare for full productions in October 2024 and February 2025,” says Hickling Beckman. She is also directing Dear God and is a cast member for Juked, directed by Mikayla Wilson.

Snook describes Juked as an adaptation of Sophocles’ Electra crossed with Asheville history. Meanwhile, Dear God began with the premise of a preacher’s response to a community encountering aliens and grew from there

“In the end, the process of A Different Myth has yielded beautiful results, and I cannot wait for the stories to get in front of an audience in our scripted readings and finally into the season with Different Strokes,” Snook says.

For more information, visit

Queen bees and wannabes

Less than two weeks after its production of Willy Wonka Jr. closes (Sunday, Oct. 29), Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville offers more all-ages fun with Mean Girls Jr. The show runs Friday, Nov. 10-Sunday, Nov. 19.

Written by Tina Fey (who also penned the screenplay for the 2004 film on which the musical is based), the family-friendly edition of the Tony-nominated show features songs by lyricist Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde) and composer Jeff Richmond (Netflix‘s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”).

The story follows that of the film, in which fish-out-of-water teen Cady Heron attempts to adjust to life at a suburban Illinois high school. Shelia Sumpter directs, continuing her streak of femme-centric shows after helming Good Ol’ Girls in September and October.

Mean Girls brilliantly tackles the universal themes of fitting in, friendship and navigating the turbulent waters of adolescence,” says Candice Dickinson, HART’s artistic director. “We have the perfect cast of students right now for this show, and are delighted to have the help of two Western Carolina University students, Javan DeLozier and Jessi Hoadley, to bring the story to life with their choreography.”

For more information, visit


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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