Theater company performs ‘Dogwood’s Search’ at WCU Aug. 27-28

Dogwood, played by Sarah Lipham, meets (from left) Deer, played by John Raines; Hawk, played by Erica Welborn; Chipmunk, played by Kate Gardner; and Bear, played by Jack Watson.

Dogwood, played by Sarah Lipham, meets (from left) Deer, played by John Raines; Hawk, played by Erica Welborn; Chipmunk, played by Kate Gardner; and Bear, played by Jack Watson.

The summer company of Western Carolina University’s Theatre in Education program will perform “Dogwood’s Search,” an original play for young audiences based on a Cherokee legend, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, and Thursday, Aug. 28, in Niggli Theater.

Evening performances of the show on campus are free and open to the public. Matinee performances on Thursday, Aug. 28, will be reserved for audiences from Western North Carolina schools. The performances on campus conclude a summer tour, which included shows in Canton and at a national theater conference in Atlanta.

Dogwood, played by Sarah Lipham (left), meets Beloved Woman, played by Gena Watson, in "Dogwood's Search."

Dogwood, played by Sarah Lipham (left), meets Beloved Woman, played by Gena Watson, in “Dogwood’s Search.”

In the student-developed show directed by WCU faculty member Peter Savage, a character named Dogwood seeks out the Animal Council and a way to reunite the Cherokee people with their friends in the natural kingdom. Dogwood, played by Sarah Lipham, a senior theater major from Canton, finds adventure, excitement and amusement as she meets characters including Tree, Bluebird, Rock, Hawk, Deer, Beer and Chipmunk.

“‘Dogwood’s Search’ relates from the perspective of a child the importance of environmental stewardship and respect for all beings,” said Glenda Hensley, director of WCU’s Theatre in Education program. “Children will be fascinated with the representation of the show’s characters and will be inspired by the simplicity and significance of this legend.”

After the approximately 30-minute performance, cast members stay to answer questions and talk with interested audience members and children about the production.

Students in WCU’s Theatre in Education program initially developed and produced “Dogwood’s Search” in 2007 under the guidance of Cherokee storytellers Eddie Bushyhead and Davy Arch, who shared the story and mentored students as they developed the script and the play. Erin Wagoner, a junior motion picture and television production major from Archdale, adapted the script.

“Erin’s style and words have inspired a fresh, delightful spark for the show in a way that still maintains the significance of the moral,” said Hensley. “All of the students in this theater company have created nothing short of magic in ‘Dogwood’s Search’ with their energy and enthusiasm.”

The group was selected for a performance July 25 at the American Alliance for Theatre and Education’s national conference in Atlanta, where Hensley and Savage participated in a separate session for educational practitioners across the nation.

WCU’s Theatre in Education program, established by the stage and screen department, aims to produce works that are artistically excellent, educationally relevant, and culturally and environmentally literate. The program also serves the community through hosting theater arts workshops for area students.

For more information, contact Hensley at ghensley@email.wcu.edu or (828) 227-2469.