By Alicia Stemper/Vitamin O
“The Dream of the Burning Boy,” a play by David West Read, will be produced and performed by One Song Productions, a completely youth run local theatre company, at the Carrboro ArtsCenter June 1-3, 2018. “Burning Boy” is co-directed by Eliza McLamb (Carrboro High) and Naomi Nelson (East Chapel Hill High).
Two Chapel Hill High students started One Song in 2002. All aspects of managing the company are the responsibility of a youth board, primarily comprised of high school juniors and seniors. When stuck, students turn to One Song’s manual or to former board members for guidance. McLamb and Nelson schedule Burning Boy rehearsals and call times, give the actors feedback, and encourage them to experiment and take risks in rehearsal – and they let them know when the risks don’t work. Says McLamb, “It is a strength that we can be both peers and professionals. We can be friends and take direction from each other.”
Cast member Alan Hunt (CHHS), concurs. He appreciates One Song’s “…focus on people and the focus on the strengths people bring to the role” without much emphasis on whether they have been in other shows and without undue concern about seniority. Maya Murphy (ECHH) found this to be true when she auditioned for Burning Boy with no prior acting experience. “This group oriented me. They wanted to make sure if I wasn’t cast, it wasn’t because I didn’t know what to do.” Murphy adds, “This experience changed me. I came home before I even knew if I was cast in the play and told my mother, ‘This is what I’m doing the rest of my life.’ “
Nelson notes One Song does not have the same boundaries school based theatre does regarding what plays they can perform. For example, their scripts can include more curse words and adult themes. Cast member Gus Clemens (CH) feels the freedom prepares students better for the next level, whether that be studying dramatic arts in college or going directly into professional theatre. Likewise, Alan Hunt enjoys One Song as “…a very open space which I love. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s a very wholesome experience.”
Cast and board members were unanimous in their desire to see more cohesiveness in the arts community, more student led theatre, and more venues hosting student plays. Gus Clemens hopes One Song is still around 100 years from now, and board and cast member Eden Bartholomew (ECHH) agreed, saying, “That would be the dream.”