All five acts share the same location, he said.
“I had this idea to write five different stories with the same thread, same location,” said Gabbard. “Each scene has a different challenge: love, emotion, humor, reality and heartbreak.”
“Our Place” has won multiple awards in theater competitions. Its most recent win was at the North Carolina Theater Conference for distinguished play. About 120 shows competed (including Independence High School’s “The Dancers”) in the November event. Independence and Ardrey Kell will now compete in the regional Southeastern Theatre Conference in Chattanooga from March 4-8. Only 20 schools from 10 states qualify for the regional competition. In order for the 23-member cast and crew to attend the March competition, the school needs to raise $5,000. Through a series of fundraisers and shows, the school has managed to raise more than $20,000 in funding but needs $5,000 more. Independence and Ardrey Kell will be the only schools to represent North Carolina.
“I knew we would be taking the show to competitions but I didn’t imagine our audience being so emotional,” said Maddie Coggin, Ardrey Kell 11th-grader. “Then we went to competitions and it was an incredible experience.”
Maddie plays a girl named Holly, a gullible teenager who falls in love easily.
“Being in the show has allowed me to explore my personality more,” she said. “I knew I was funny but I didn’t know I was this funny until I heard how the audience responded when I was on stage. It showed me how to connect with people.”
Gabbard has worked with many of the students since they were middle schoolers at Community House. That is part of the reason he decided to write his own script – he knows what his students can do in the theater.
“There’s a lot of poor literature for high school students. The work doesn’t really respect the actor. It’s cheesy work with the same themes,” said Gabbard. “I push my students really hard. They’ve won awards but I still push them to that next level. We look for new ways to tell our story.”
High school senior Will Strickland said he appreciates the hard work required to keep the show fresh. Will plays the part of Al Gilbert, a loving middle-aged father of two disengaged children.
“We were able to make this show ours,” he said. “It shows us that you can have a mature theme that your peers and others will enjoy.”
Donations may be mailed to: Ardrey Kell High School, 10220 Ardrey Kell Road, Charlotte, NC,
28277, Attention: Terry Gabbard, Theater Arts Department.