FHickory PlaygroundHickory – After last year’s smash inaugural event, local theatre company Hickory Playground is returning to the SALT Block’s Drendel Auditorium for another fun-filled evening of great art. In this unique festival, eight original one-act plays are cast, written, and performed in a 48-hour period by local artistic talent from the Hickory area.

On Thursday, July 20, playwrights and actors will meet to randomly select their casts. Then they will get to work writing and rehearsing their one-act plays, which will be performed live on July 22 at 7:00 p.m. At the end of the festival, the audience votes on their favorite play and the winning playwright and cast steps up to receive uproarious applause.

This fun and fast-paced event is impressive on a few different fronts. First, the nonprofit is organized entirely by three young up-and-comers in the arts community. Dylan Tashjian is a rising junior at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Stern School of Business; Jordan Makant is a rising senior at LRU studying history and creative writing; and Robert Fuller is currently working in film production at Plan A Films.

What’s most incredible is that these young artists are raising money to benefit the greater Hickory arts community by supporting programs in the visual, music, and performing arts.

“Last year, more than 300 people attended the festival, and we raised enough money to donate $6,000 to local high schools, including St. Stephens and Hickory High,” says Tashjian, producing artistic director of the Playground.

“The support from the community has been nothing short of amazing, including support from local businesses. One of our goals is to build lasting relationships with corporations and individuals through the arts. That, along with being able to give back to the arts in public education and building a nurturing and inclusive environment for all artists, is the mission of the Playground.”

Klingspor, PepsiCo Hickory, Vanguard Furniture, Century Furniture, Valdese Weavers, Graystone Eye, Alex Lee, Brown & Neuwirth Oral & Cosmetic Surgery, and LRU all made significant contributions last year, as did many individual donors.

Members of the academic and business communities are equally enthusiastic about the festival.

“This is truly remarkable,” says Molly Rice, who leads the theatre program at St. Stephens High School and directs the Tractor Shed Theatre Company. “Arts education has never been more important. At a time when funding is being cut, these students stepped up and gave back not only to the local high schools, but to our community.”

“It is so gratifying to see our former students engage in entrepreneurial activities to support the local arts community,” says Steve Clarke, head of the music program at Hickory High School. “We are extremely grateful for the $3,000 contribution and used it to fund programs that benefit current students.”

“Often supporting the arts means more than just a financial contribution,” adds Molly Bass, who directs the Hickory High School theatre program. “It means showing up! And that’s exactly what these young men are doing with the Hickory Playground.
They are creating opportunities for playwrights to write, actors to act, and production and lighting students to practice their craft and experiment. I would not be surprised at all if some of these people end up on Broadway.”

“We met with several business leaders who not only made generous financial contributions, but also reviewed our business plan, made thoughtful suggestions, referred us to others, and provided encouragement,” adds Tashjian.

“We were very impressed with their business plan,” says Hani Nassar, an executive at Klingspor. “The planning for fundraising, promotion, and production was well thought out. Whenever someone takes the initiative to develop a sustainable original idea that benefits the whole community, and presents a thoughtful plan to execute it, we believe it is our civic responsibility to help support them. We were proud to be the primary sponsor of last year’s event, and this year it should be even better.”

“This kind of initiative is exactly what Hickory needs,” says John Bray, CEO of Vanguard. “These boys essentially created their own internship so they could learn firsthand what it takes to be a production company. It is highly creative and entrepreneurial, but best of all it benefits the entire community. People are not only entertained, but the proceeds are given back to support the next generation of dreamers and doers.”

“With actors and playwrights from around the community participating, the Second Annual Hickory Playground is destined to be another unprecedented success,” concludes Tashjian. “We have a goal of filling the Drendel Auditorium to support the arts in the community.

Last year more than 30 actors and playwrights participated, and more than 300 people attended the inaugural event. The plays were a mix of comedy and drama, and each was an artistic impression with a message. We can’t wait to see the incredible work these talented artists produce next.”

About This Year’s Hickory Playground One-Act Play Festival

“Last year’s event can only be described as ‘the most fun you can have in 48 hours,’” says Tim Plaehn, winner of the first Hickory Playground One-Act Play Festival.

Audience members feel the same way, and the Hickory Playground is now the buzz of the artistic community because of its fast-paced style of theatre along with its inclusion and encouragement of audience participation.

The event itself features eight original plays (among other entertainment) and is less than two hours in total. The event is open to all ages with darker subject matter placed toward the end of the night. “We are passionate about making art available to everyone,   ” says Tashjian, “and we feel that the Hickory Playground is the perfect way to get the entire community involved.”

The Hickory Playground is a certified non-profit organization with a large majority of its proceeds earmarked for local performing arts and is currently pursuing 501(c)(3) status. This year’s event is on July 22, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. at the Drendel Auditorium on the SALT Block.

Each play is original and is written and performed over a two-day period by local writers, actors, and directors specifically for the Hickory Playground. The plays are performed one night only. The event is free to the public but donations are gratefully accepted. It is recommended that you arrive early to get a seat.

This year’s sponsors include Vanguard Furniture, Klingspor, Bass-Smith Funeral Home, Pepsi, Alex Lee, Lenoir-Rhyne, and Terra Dotta, along with many others. For more information, visit www.hickoryplayground.com.