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Carson theater students find family on the stage

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

Carson High School is presenting two plays in repertory next week – a comedy and a drama.

“Wit,” by Margaret Edson, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning one-act drama about an English professor who is dying of ovarian cancer. The lead, Dr. Kelekian, is played by Carson sophomore Rozalyn Walton.

“The Quest for Don Quixote,” a comedy by Mark Brown, follows playwright Ben Eisenberg just before the first rehearsal of his big play about Don Quixote – but he hasn’t actually written it yet.

In fact, he hasn’t even read the book.

It’s a comedy about writer’s block and the ultimate in procrastination. Eisenberg is played by Carson senior Blake Hawkins.

Blake has come to theater through a journey.

“When I came to Carson,” he said, “I hated theater, the arts, the essence of what this was. I grew up playing baseball and basketball and playing video games. I didn’t do things that were considered weird or ‘outcast-y.’”

A friend thought he might enjoy theater class and suggested he give it a shot.

“That second semester of my freshman year totally changed things for me. I knew this was where I had to be. It was my family; it was my home. Theater was different for me because even though there was extreme diversity, there was extreme acceptance. I’m Christian, but here there are people with all beliefs, races, gay, straight.

“There are multiple people in my cast who are not like me, but we are all equally actors. It’s brought me joy over the last four years, and I see something great.”

Miguel Villalobos is a freshman who transferred to Carson to take advantage of the theater program. He plays the agent in “The Quest for Don Quixote.”

“It’s really funny,” Miguel says. “The characters of Don Quixote come to life in the play. The running gag is that no one has read the book. So they never read the book.”

About Blake’s “outcast” remark, Miguel says, “I’m, actually, maybe I’m outcast. I’m quirky. I exceed in awkwardness. Anytime I go in the theater, I relate to anyone who’s in theater. We are family. Our day and age, not many people accept us. We act, we do weird stuff, we have a different personality. That is a value not many other people have that we use to the best of our ability.

“Not only do we have hardships and people judging us for what we do, but that specifically makes us a better person and we grow – socially, emotionally and mentally.”

John Walters, a freshman, is a technician for “Wit.”

“I never had an interest in drama until I came to Carson,” John says. “I was told to try out. I wasn’t interested in trying out, so I did tech. I love theater. I love the family. People are laughing and crying, and there are emotions. I’ve never done anything like this. I didn’t like extracurricular activities; I preferred to stay home.

“Theater changed all that. I have a place to come. I helped build this set. It’s really great to see people come and use the stuff. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Hannah Carr has been in theater since third grade with the Norvell youth theater. She’s in the “Wit” cast and says her parents pushed her to pursue drama, so she’s doing the best she can.

“I think why a lot of people consider theater to be ‘outcast-y’ is it’s not something a lot of Southern people do. Someone might not want to be on stage and make a fool, but in theater, we are happy to make people laugh and see the joy we can provide for others.”

Alyssa Feliciano is a freshman serving as assistant stage manager for “Quest for Don Quixote.”

“I think there’s a sort of stereotype that kids in theater are loud and obnoxious and annoying,” Alyssa says. “Not a lot of people want to get involved with that. And there are random stereotypes like, you must be new to China Grove or you must be gay if you’re in theater or whatever. But I think actors on stage work harder; we need to know everything. We only get one shot.”

Danni Moore, a junior, is a first-time stage manager for “Wit.”

“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” Danni says. “I had to research about IVs and how they look. In one scene, she gets connected to an IV, so we had to learn how to do that.

“I’ve always been trying to find my place until I joined theater. I tried sports when I was younger, and soccer worked for a while. Finally, I decided to give theater a try and fell in love with it. I joined one show late and had to do tech. I fell head over heels over it: putting scenes together; others falling into their characters faster and faster. It grew over time.

“Once you’re in theater at Carson, it’s forever,” she says. “When students who have graduated come back, we get all excited. We are family.

“A lot of our fellow students expect us to be able to turn it off and be a normal person, but it’s what we are. It’s a huge part of who we are. We can’t turn it off. We are humming a song we did two years ago, and people are groaning at us. You can’t make a football player turn off his loudness.”

Rozalyn Walton, who is a sophomore, plays Dr. Vivian Bearing, the lead role in “Wit.” Roz agrees with Danni.

“I think along those lines, too. Also, the vulnerability we have as a collective family here is different. We strive to stay connected and let out our emotions,” Rozalyn says. “To some extent, that is maybe something we should turn off, but it’s hard.

“My imagination goes wild in theater. I love to explore that world. In middle school, I tried to mimic that myself, and I grew to love it. I wasn’t as good as I am here. Here, everyone is driven and dedicated, and we take great pride in what we do here.”

“Wit” will be staged Nov. 5, 7 and 9. “The Quest for Don Quixote” runs Nov. 6 and 8.

Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Carson High School auditorium, 290 Kress Venture Road, China Grove.

Advance tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults and are available at www.carsontheatre.com. All tickets at the door are $10, cash only.

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