Sink or swim: NC Standing Ovation takes on competition with The Diviners

Freshman+Maddie+Hewitt+%28Goldie+Short%29%2C+junior+Jordan+Hicks+%28Buddy+Layman%29%2C+senior+Emmett+Schindler+%28C.C.+Showers%29%2C+and+senior+Alex+Klinkert+%28Ferris+Layman%29+rehearse+The+Diviners+by+Jim+Leonard%2C+Jr.+in+NC%27s+main+theater.

Kat Shambaugh

Freshman Maddie Hewitt (Goldie Short), junior Jordan Hicks (Buddy Layman), senior Emmett Schindler (C.C. Showers), and senior Alex Klinkert (Ferris Layman) rehearse The Diviners by Jim Leonard, Jr. in NC's main theater.

Kat Shambaugh, Copy editor, Photo editor

In preparation for the annual One Act play competition on October 29, NC Standing Ovation began rehearsals of The Diviners by Jim Leonard, Jr. in early August.

The play, originally two hours long but cut down to 55 minutes, tells the story of a poor town in Indiana during the Great Depression and a young disabled boy named Buddy Layman (junior Jordan Hicks) whose keen ability for divining water impacts each townsperson. When a disenchanted preacher named C.C. Showers (senior Emmett Schindler) visits the town, Layman and his sister Jennie Mae Layman (senior Kat Shambaugh), as well as a swath of townspeople, find sanctuary and trust in the man that leads to ruin.

The show combines all grade levels, from four-year drama veterans like Hicks and Schindler to new hires like freshman Maddie Hewitt, who plays the overwhelmingly bubbly Goldie Short.

“It’s surprising because I never had any training before and knowing it’s like one of the biggest plays the school can put on is insane. I’m just really happy to be a part of the cast,” Hewitt said.

The nature of the story provides a formidable task for Hicks, who must present a disability in such a way that speaks to its true meanings. Leonard, Jr. never specifically states Layman’s disability, so Hicks’ artistic license further develops his character.

“It took a lot of time to get it down because you don’t want it to look too played or too theatrical or too made-up; you want it to be believable,” Hicks said. “I started practicing for the show last February after we saw it at Georgia Thespian Conference even though I never thought I would have the opportunity to do it, so I’ve seen so many different variations on it and took bits and pieces of how other people play Buddy and kind of added a little twist of my own.”

The Diviners also presents a human story in a distinct atmosphere. Set in a small and rural Indiana town during the Great Depression, the actors must tailor movement, accents, diction, and expressions to match the era and feelings of each character.

“It’s interesting because the time period is so different that stepping into a character is like stepping into a different world,” sophomore Hope Kutsche (Luella Bennett) said. “It’s difficult to imagine what problems my character is going through, and the accent is definitely hard to keep up, but I really enjoy the challenge of it all.”

Sophomores Isabella Keaton (Norma Henshaw) and Hope Kutsche (Luella Bennett) bicker onstage as they rehearse the show.
Kat Shambaugh
Sophomores Isabella Keaton (Norma Henshaw) and Hope Kutsche (Luella Bennett) bicker onstage as they rehearse the show.

Members of technical theater also face specific problems behind the scenes. With props ranging from an old Schwinn bike to a large metal tub, The Diviners requires a set designer with a keen yet simple eye. The costumes must be old and dirty to match the era, and all makeup and hair must fall into the appropriate time as well.

“I’m trying to come at this as historically accurate as possible, but it’s fairly difficult since most dresses of that style can be fairly pricy,” costumer and senior Emma Hord said. “I try to make each character distinct and dress them according to their personality while tying them together with a common thread.”

Furthermore, with the current renovations taking place in NC’s main theater, the cast began rehearsal in the black box theater with the intention of performing the show there. After two weeks of rehearsal, director Candice Corcoran decided to take her chances with the construction and perform the show in the main theater.

“I don’t think the construction impacts us because our actors are so well-trained and they know how to get around problems. One of the things about being in theater is dealing with issues and being able to adapt, so we’re used to working around obstacles whether we go over them or through them,” Corcoran said.

Still, the cast and crew look forward to taking the show to competition at the end of October. Judges will score the production on topics from characterization to set design, and NC looks to beat out its usual competitors of Kennesaw Mountain, North Paulding, and Hillgrove.

“I’m looking forward to all of the cool people that I get to meet every year at competition, and I think that we’re going to do well because of how we practice: with dedication and hard work,” senior Alex Klinkert (Ferris Layman) said. “We’ll give it our all and do our best to crush Kennesaw Mountain.”