Hickory – Thom Hutchens, a longtime volunteer at the Hickory Community Theatre is stepping into the director’s seat for the first time at HCT to stage Noel Coward’s hauntingly funny comedy, “Blithe Spirit,” which opens June 16th in the Firemen’s Kitchen.

Hutchens is a Newton native whose first exposure to theatre was while attending Gardner-Webb University, right after his discharge from the Marine Corp, where he served in the Vietnam War. Once “bitten by the theatre bug,” he transferred to UNC Charlotte, since Gardner-Webb did not offer a degree program for theatre arts. Although “Blithe Spirit” is his first directing job at Hickory Community Theatre, he has extensive prior experience. After graduation from UNCC he went on the NYU where he received an MFA degree in Theatre Arts Management. That was followed by work with several touring companies, lots of contract work up and down east coast, a few trips west, and a few theatre teaching jobs. His return to North Carolina came when he was hired to work with “From This Day Forward,” the long-running outdoor drama in Valdese. His most recent work for the Hickory Theatre has been as a stage manager on such high profile productions as “White Christmas,” “Les Miserables,” “La Cage aux Folles,” and “Young Frankenstein.”

“Blithe Spirit” is a classic comedy by Noel Coward, a British playwright, screenwriter and composer credited with 37 plays, 16 musicals 18 films and over two dozen popular songs.

The plot concerns novelist Charles Condomine, who invites an eccentric medium, Madame Arcati, to his house for a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. The scheme backfires when it conjures the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, who makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to his second wife, Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.

Performances of “Blithe Spirit,” are Thursdays through Sundays, June 16-26, at 7:30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2:30 on Sunday. Tickets are $16 with general admission seating. For tickets call 828-327-3855 or click www.hickorytheatre.showare.com/BlitheSpirit.

Photo: Thom Hutchens is the director of “Blithe Spirit,” a classic comedy running June 16-26 at the Hickory Community Theatre. Call 828-327-3855 for tickets and information. Photo by Chris Reidel.