Some are drawn to the fancy gowns with hoop skirts. Others like to perform on stage. A few were looking for something fun to do this summer.
Whatever the reason, about a dozen Letcher County teenagers are volunteering this season with the outdoor drama “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” at Jenkins.
“I just like it because it gives me something to do so I am not sitting at home bored,” said Jarrett Slone, a sophomore at Letcher County Central High School, who plays Tall Tom Turner and Harry Dean in the outdoor drama.
Robbie Rowlette, who has the lead role of Chad Buford, said being in the Civil War play seemed like an interesting option for spending his time during the summer months before entering high school.
Rachel Woodward, Brooke Puckett and Alessandra D’Amato like the wardrobe, especially the dresses.
“I love wearing those things,” said Woodward, a senior at Jenkins High School.
Whether it is acting on stage or working in the lights and sound booth, several students have spent countless hours contributing to the weekly performances of “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come.”
“The kids are great,” said Codell Gibson, magistrate in District Three, who plays the Parson and Brutis Dean in the outdoor drama. “I think they are putting something back in the community.”
David Tipton, the producer’s assistant and production manager, said the teenagers add a special element to the play.
“They’re amazing,” said Tipton, who plays Daws Dillon. “I can’t say enough about them. They listen to the adults and the director. They are energetic and are really good.”
He said being in the play has helped some of the teenagers, including Slone, to not be as shy.
“You could see at first he was real timid and wouldn’t speak out,” said Tipton. “One practice it just clicked and a light came on. We’ve seen them grow tremendously this year.”
Acting has given the students more confidence.
“I’ve learned to speak louder,” said Slone. “It has helped me to come out of my shell.”
Woodward, who plays Lissy Turner, said she has learned more about herself by participating in the drama.
“I play opposite of myself,” said Woodward. “She cries a lot. I don’t cry a lot. It has really been hard for me, but I have gotten better at it.”
Rowlette said he has learned how to get along better with people.
“Once you do a few practices with the cast, they become like a family,” he said.
Woodward enjoys the fellowship.
“I’ve learned a lot about coming together to make something bigger than yourself,” said Puckett, a junior at JHS. “Every Saturday night we have problems but it comes together.”
Puckett said the actors and people who work behind the scenes help each other.
“You always have someone in the dressing room zipping you up or borrowing makeup,” he said. “You make a lot of friends.”
In addition to the teenagers, several adults from the community are involved with the play. Jenkins City Council Member Terry Braddock plays Major Buford. Whitesburg Assistant Fire Chief Perry Fowler plays the role of Caleb Hazel, a schoolteacher. Debra Gibson, Codell Gibson’s wife, plays Ms. Lucy Dean. Ella Tolliver plays Hannah Buford. Larry Van Hoorebeke plays Nathan Cherry.
The Civil War drama, which is based on the novel “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” by John Fox Jr., was written by Fern Overbey Hilton. The play began in the 1970s as a production of The Little Shepherd Arts and Crafts Corporation. Earl Hobson Smith was the original playwright.
The venue located in Van closed in 1982 and the production started up again last summer at the amphitheater in Jenkins. TECO Coal Company donated the land off of US Highway 23 where the amphitheater is located, and several grants have been used to make the outdoor drama possible.
“This is a really entertaining play,” said Slone. “It has something for everyone. It has a little bit of romance, violence and comedy.”
Puckett said audience members will enjoy looking at all of the Civil War-era costumes.
This Saturday will mark the seventh production of the summer, and cast members are hoping for larger crowds to fill the wooden benches for their remaining shows.
“Every outdoor drama is hit by the recession,” said Tipton. “Our attendance is not the greatest this year.”
The play starts at 8 p.m. at the amphitheater every Saturday until Sept. 4.
“They should come to an outdoor performance because it is an experience not like much else today,” said Rowlette. “Most events are inside. This is outdoors and live.”
Alessandra D’Amato said sitting outside to watch the play is part of the fun.
“It’s an entire experience coming into the woods,” she said. “It’s gorgeous up here. You can hear no road noises.”
Woodward said no two performances are exact.
“We’re always developing,” said Woodward. “We are always growing. You see something different every week.”
D’Amato said the play is getting smoother with each performance.
“It changes every time because we are getting better at it,” she said.
Tipton said it isn’t too late for more people to get involved in the production. Volunteers are needed to be extras in the play as well as understudies.
For more information, call 832- 1453.