5th Pyro Fest 1

Carolyn Bell, Hunter Smith, Cyan Burkhart and Chaston Tomlin link arms to rescue Gisselle Benitez, center of circle, as William A. Wohlford, Amber Nelms, Brenna Mills and Chasidy Trantham portray waves and water in “All the Way Back,” a new work by Donna Latham.

Paris Junior College’s Drama Department opens its Fifth Annual New Works Festival-Pyro Playfest on Thursday with a double slate of shows performed on an alternating schedule over four days in the Ray E. Karrer Theatre, in the school’s administration building.

The Green Repertory, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 2:30 p.m. April 27 and 7:30 p.m. April 28, will include “Threatened Panda Fights Back,” a comedy by New Zealander Rex McGregor; and a handful of plays from Dwayne Yancy, a playwright from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, including “Letters from the Mona Lisa,” “The Seven Deadly Sins – The Monologues,” “Veronica’s Dolls,” “The Ferryman and the Thief,” and “My Summer As A Mermaid.

The Gold Repertory is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 26, 7:30 p.m. April 27 and 2:30 p.m. April 28, and includes another Yancy play, “Deanna Dupes the Devil,” followed by “Vincent’s Ear,” by Donna Hoke,” “The Boy on the Beach” by Matthew Weaver; “The Quarreling Dead” by Brad Nies, who has had plays in all five Pyro Playfests; “Colour Without Sight” by Micha O’Nolan, a former Paris Junior College student; and “All the Way Back” by Donna Latham.

All of the scripts are to be performed for the first time at the festival, which carries the theme of “The Winds of Change.”

“All the plays deal with some sort of change,” Drama Instructor and Festival Director Will Walker said. “It might be social change, or change in characters or circumstances, and one story has actual wind.

The New Works Festival is gaining notice, as well. One of the plays was written by a New Zealander, and another writer submitted 23 plays for consideration.”

Seating is limited to 65 for each show, so reservations are strongly encouraged. Scripts in the New Works Festival have some minor adult themes and language.

General admission seating is $15, $10 for senior citizens and students and $5 with donation of new children’s or teen’s book for local charities, or free for those with current Paris Junior College ID. Unclaimed tickets will be released 15 minutes prior to curtain time. Email pjcdrama@parisjc.edu to reserve tickets.

About 30 students at Paris Junior College and at other area schools, faculty and community members are cast in the productions as well as tackling the challenges of directing some of the shows.

“I’m in three shows and directing yet another,” Blossom resident Lisa Martin said. “I’m going crazy, but I’m having the time of my life playing a bird.”

The audience for Playfest will find seats right on the stage with the actors, making the productions as close to interactive as possible.

Set, sound and projections designers for the New Works Festival at Paris Junior College include Robyn Huizinga and Will Walker; lighting designers are Gisselle Benitez and Hannah England; makeup designer is Hunter Smith; costume designer is Grace Marie Hignight and props designer is Molly Law.

Sally Boswell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6962 or at sally.boswell@theparisnews.com.

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