Two drama productions feature Owen High’s Lyn Nihart

Barbara Hootman

Owen High drama teacher Lyn Nihart will appear in two productions of The Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre at the high school this summer, including one this weekend. SART, a professional theater company, teamed with Buncombe County Schools to give it a place to perform while its home in Mars Hill is renovated.

Nihart will perform in two SART shows, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” and “As Time Goes By - Songs from the Silver Screen,” to be performed in the Owen High theater.

“Pump Boys and Dinettes” (7:30 p.m. July 24-25, July 31-Aug.1 and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 2) is a family fun-packed musical celebrating genuine friendships and life’s simple pleasures with country feel songs. The “Pump Boys” sell high octane on Highway 57 in Grand Ole Opry country, and the Dinettes, Prudie and Rhetta Cupp, run the Double Cupp diner next door. Together they fashion an evening of country western songs that have received unanimous raves on and off Broadway. With heartbreak and hilarity, they perform on guitars, piano, bass, drums, and kitchen utensils.

Nihart plays Jim, and Owen music student Christian White plays Eddie. Joel P. Rogers, a seasoned professional actor and current musical theater professor at Mars Hill University, plays LM. Cameron Gregg, a recent graduate of Rutgers University theater department, plays Jackson, and Justin Mabry as Dew’wayne plays drums in the Pump Boys. Beverly Todd as Rhetta and Kelly Christianson as Prudie are the Dinettes.

“I’ve been connected with SART since my undergrad work at Mars Hill, which began in 1987 and finished in 1992 with a theater education degree,” Nihart said by e-mail. “It has a rich history of connecting professional directors, designers, and actors with the Appalachian community and student learners. Over the years, SART has been my connection with how to do the work of theater and how to do it right. I’m thankful for the mentors I’ve had through it.

“The excitement for me personally this year is getting to play guitar and sing with a band. I’ve never really done that. It’s been 10 years since I actually sang in a show. I did ‘Putting It Together,’ a Stephen Sondheim piece, and it was with SART as well. Getting on stage is something that as a theater teacher I need to do. It’s pretty crazy. But it’s a lot of fun. The audience goes away from the shows feeling good.”

Valley drama lovers get a second treat with “As Time Goes By-Songs from the Silver Screen.” Since Al Jolson burst into song in “The Jazz Singer” (1927), Hollywood has been creating some memorable songs. “Moon River,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Mona Lisa” and “The Way We Were” are a few of the amazing songs that won an Academy Award. Singing them for one show only (7:30 p.m., July 26 in the school theater) will be SART performers Beverly Todd, Liz Aeillo, Rebecca O’Quinn, Joel P. Rogers and Bradshaw Call, as well as Lyn Nihart.

A single adult ticket cost $25. However, attend the show with a faculty or staff or student from any Owen District School and get in for $12.50 for adults and $10 for students. This special deal includes as many people in a group that come with one teacher or student.

“Performing in these plays really helps me understand how amazing the students are at Owen,” Nihart said. “They learn shows amidst all the crazy chaos of being a teenager. And these days, teenagers have a lot on their plates. Theater is good work. Inevitably the process of it changes who you are. You never come out on the other side the same as you went in.”