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Students bridge divisions in cross-county collaboration

Erik Hinkle, Maddie Miller and Corey Boeh, in 'Miracle on Main Street' Erik Hinkle, Maddie Miller and Corey Boeh, in 'Miracle on Main Street'

Eleanor Palmer knew nothing about the three other students who sat in the room with her. She had met one of them briefly at the North Carolina Theatre Conference, but aside from that brief encounter, they were all strangers to one another.

Twenty-four hours later, nearly every seat in the Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown theater was filled. Palmer, a sophomore from Hendersonville High School, stood with her fellow playwrights – from East, North and West Henderson – and their Playhouse mentor to introduce their 10-minute play, which they wrote in six hours Friday night.
"At first it was very daunting and kind of awkward because we were with people we'd never met before," Palmer said. "But as ideas started rolling and things were put on the table, it just got really fun."
Students from each of the four county public high schools — East Henderson, Hendersonville, North Henderson and West Henderson — teamed up with staff mentors from the Flat Rock Playhouse YouTheatre to write, produce and perform four 10-minute plays in 24 hours. This was the first annual event introduced as a meeting of dramatic creation "Between the Rock and the Hendo Place."
The event was free but raised $450 in donations to support tuition assistance for YouTheatre students.
"We wanted to collaborate with Henderson County public high schools," YouTheatre Administrator M.C. Gaylord said. "We were providing them with the space, and the four theater teachers came up with the idea of what they wanted to do, and we just supported that idea."
Unlike other festivals, the 24-Hour Play Festival mixed students from all the schools, allowing them to work with peers they had never performed with before and in most cases didn't know.
"We just felt like it was really important to give the kids an opportunity to learn from each other and meet each other and share their talents with each other," said NHHS theater teacher Lisa Bryant, a veteran Flat Rock Playhouse singer and actor. "It's not like a competition, it's a sharing."
Students also benefited from being under the direction of different teachers.
"Different acting teachers teach different ways," said Geoffrey Jensen, a senior from East, who was directed by West's Kelly Cooper in "Hot-N-Ready." "I was so used to the way my director taught – everyone is so used to the way that their director teaches – just meeting them and seeing how they work is strange."
Junior Katie Miller from West went into the festival expecting to encounter some of the stereotypes she had heard about students from other schools. Once she got to know them, though, she realized how similar they were.
"I think we were all a bit nervous about meeting each other, and then we all got to give our own individual personalities," she said. "It wasn't like this person's personality is exactly like the prejudice that I've heard from East. Everyone was their own person, and we all really worked well together."
Palmer said the event helped with her social skills and meeting new people.
"Getting in a situation where you don't know anybody and creating something that everyone in the group loves, it really brings you close together," she said. "If you don't open up at all, you're not going to have nearly as much fun."

Directors/Cast

"Miracle on Main Street"
Lisa Bryant (Director – North)
Mary Katherine Thompson
CeCe Foster
Bryce Westall
Emily Holbert
Sabrina Taylor
Lydia Gordon
Kayla Ashley
Maddie Tweed
Corey Boeh
Erik Hinkle

"Upward Over the Mountain"
Zach Walker (Director – East)
Quade Covill
Hayley Westphal
Dion Mills
Maddie Blankenship
Devin Smith
Rachel Allen
Nikki Garrett
Catie Russell
Kendra Thompson
Amber Harvell
Margaret Butler

"Get Out!"
Todd Weakley (Director – Hendersonville)
Phillip Breland
Miranda Allison
Stuart Dunlap
Ann Ramey Schwab
Katherine Leatherman
Katlyn Kannup
Bobby Simcox
Jessica Strickland
Kimberly Leonard
Jennie Battle

"Hot-N-Ready"
Kelly Cooper (Director – West)
Hannah Daniels
Cara Jarvis
Geoffrey Jensen
Bryan Wallace
Chloe Eaton
Jon Chaffee
April Davis
Hannah Lyda
Austin Downing