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Play festival highlights high school actors

In its sixth year, the collaborative project of Henderson County Public Schools' four high schools is presenting a showcase of 30-minute plays at 6 p.m. Friday from 6-8 p.m. at the Hendersonville High School auditorium.

The WHEN (West, Hendersonville, East, and North) Project started as a challenge to theatre students across the county, intending to connect them with their peers and celebrate their creativity through a formal production.

Early in the school year, the four county high school theatre teachers meet and select one line of dialogue, one prop, and one incident – which become the basis for each group to create a new work of theatre. The groups have five weeks to conceptualize, create, write, rehearse, and design their production, and are each limited to a budget of $100. The culminating public performance is critiqued by area theatre professionals.

"We hope that this experience opens student's eyes to just what is possible," said Kelly Cooper, theatre teacher at West Henderson High.

"The process forces students into strategic problem solving situations. The performance date is always right around the corner," said Todd Weakley, theatre teacher at Hendersonville High.

"This isn't a competition, but we want to make the best piece that we can, because we know that the other groups are working hard," said Libby Evans, a senior at Hendersonville High.

Six years ago, the groups were assisted by Sharon Ashe, HCPS Secondary Education Director for Math, Science, Foreign Language and Arts, with a small grant that went directly to the budgets for each production and a modest stipend for the professional adjudicators. In the second year, the Rotary Club of Henderson County provided a grant to keep the project going. Since that time, the WHEN Project has continued through ticket sales.

"It is a very satisfying experience. Four short plays that reflect the energy and diversity of the county theatre programs," said Lucas Brewer-Bowman, a senior at Hendersonville High. It is also fun to see how each group uses the starting criteria. Never a dull moment!"

Tickets to the showcase are $5 and available at the door.