LLCA Wins Excellence in Play Writing & Spirit Awards at Top NC High School Theatre Festival

Lake Lure Classical Academy -The LLCA Drama team strikes a pose after arriving back on campus after their award-winning performance.

Actor Tony Sena ponders offering “The Touch of Death” to Katie Willett in the play’s closing scene.

Lake Lure, N.C. – The Lake Lure Classical Academy (LLCA) Theatre Department has much to celebrate this week as they bring home honors from the 2018 North Carolina Theatre Competition (NCTC) High School Play Festival, held recently at Gardner Webb University in Boiling Springs. LLCA’s dynamic Theatre Program, led by performing and visual arts teacher Layne Long, made the Lake Lure community proud with a presentation of their original play, A Touch of Death.

“We’re thrilled to win both the Theatre Arts Excellence in Playwright Development Award for writing and the Festival’s Spirit Award for enthusiastically attending every event and cheering on students from competing schools,” says Mrs. Long. “I’m so proud and impressed by the creativity and talent of these young students. The festival was competitive, with 15 plays being performed in a 600-person venue. Most of the other students vying for awards were upperclass, advanced theater students with much more experience.”

The LLCA students’ original play leads audiences on a journey between a present-day café and Purga Limbo, a place “where it ain’t so great, but it ain’t so bad.” Directed by Mrs. Long, A Touch of Death was written and performed by LLCA drama students Freshman Tony Sena, Freshman Mariska Grayson, Junior Aaliyah Kremzar, Senior Liv Giurintano, Freshman Kylie Long, Freshman Jack Terry, and Freshman Katie Willett.

The student production also featured Senior Stephen Snyder and Senior Mercy Witherspoon on lights and Junior Naomi White and Junior Brianne Morris on sound design.

Professional actors and directors watched each show, gave thoughtful and encouraging feedback to the drama students, and selected the award winners, NCTC says.

“What a unique and special opportunity LLCA students had at NCTC,” says Mrs. Long. “It’s incredibly rare for students to be able to write an original play and then perform it to a packed house of their peers.”

According to Mrs Long, this is the third year LLCA has entered NCTC, and the third year they’ve won awards. In previous years, LLCA was honored for Excellence in Style, Acting, and Sound Design. She says one of the biggest challenges her students face is not yet having an actual stage to rehearse upon and set up the technical elements, including sound and lighting design. But with the opening of the new Gymnatorium, that will soon change.

“When the new Gymnatorium is open, it’ll really help our theatre department,” says Mercy Witherspoon. “We have limited room now, and we don’t know quite how to set up our plays without a stage.”

Jack Terry adds, ”We’ll be able to be more prepared with a real stage, and we’ll be more connected to our school.”

For now, the drama students have a 30-minute bus ride to the Mill Spring Agricultural Center for dress rehearsals and performances. When the Gymnatorium opens, holding performances on LLCA’s new stage will enable many more students, family members and community residents to enjoy the productions.

According to NCTC, the atmosphere at the Play Festival is positive and exciting, and students are filled with energy as they watch shows, learn from their peers and make new theatre friends. Following their performance,students join their peers in the cheering audience to receive feedback from professional actors and directors with
Broadway and Hollywood credits. Student actors, designers, writers, directors and teachers are celebrated, and they bring home awards to be displayed beside school sports trophies.

Regarding the process of writing a play together the cast members all agreed it was a great experience.

“Bouncing ideas off each other and mixing all of our styles and personalities together was super easy and fun,” says Jack Terry.

“I loved how flexible we could be with developing characters and scenes,” adds Katie Willett.

Without the mentorship of Mrs. Long, the drama students say their success would not have been possible.

“Mrs. Long’s teaching style isn’t something you’d get out of any theatre teacher. She is definitely someone the students trust and respect. She shows us she cares about everyone and makes theatre a family,” says Sophomore Ryan Hartis.

“Theatre class is my therapy,” says Aaliyah Kremzar. “Everyone is so positive and wholesome. It’s an absolute safe haven.”

“You’ll always be out of your comfort zone,” says Katie Willett.

And Mercy Witherspoon says, “Theatre class is like a big, crazy family.”

For more than 30 years, the NCTC High School Play Festival has strengthened arts education in schools by bringing curriculum to life, challenging students to do their very best work, and contributing to the development of future audiences for live performing arts. The program was named one of the Top High School Theatre Festivals
by Stage Directions Magazine, is the largest high school theatre event in the
Southeast, and has been replicated in nine other states. This year, 3,000 students from 89 schools performed 118 plays!

About LLCA
LLCA is a tuition-free, public charter school that educates children from kindergarten through high school graduation. Providing a safe, supportive learning environment is paramount, and teacher-led instruction includes exploration and hands-on learning. LLCA also offers a wide-range of extracurricular activities such as art, drama, music, recreational clubs and nine competitive sports teams.


Aaliyah Kremzar, Mariska Grayson, and Liv Giurintano perform a scene from the cast-written play.