MINT HILL – The stage at Spotlight Performing Arts Academy will soon become a world of terror, danger, mystery – and humor – as students of the academy present their Halloween-themed show, “A Murder at the Hill’s.”
The show takes place Saturday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. at the academy, 7714 Matthews-Mint Hill Road. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at the door, but advanced purchases are recommended due to limited seating. Proceeds from the show will benefit the academy, which offers theater programs and lessons, music lessons, rentable rehearsal space and more.
Written entirely by Independence High School senior Lauren Kelly and directed by Grace Academy senior Jessica Strzepek, “A Murder at the Hill’s” focuses on a high school party that “turns deadly.” When Spotlight Performing Arts Academy owner Angela Gordon Mills first read the girls’ script, she was immediately impressed, as it was a funny show with a lot of laughter, mystery and a “surprising ending.”
The script was written during the summer, and Mills, the writers and actors have spent the last several months tweaking the script, perfecting and adapting it to fit the performers’ vision.
“You can’t really do that with a script that you purchase,” Mills said. “But when you write your own script, you can kind of do that. You can kind of change it and adapt it and make it your own.”
The cast primarily consists of high school and early college-aged students. All actors had to audition by performing a monologue and a song. Characters include a snobby rich girl, the “cool guy” who’s the captain of the football team, a “farm girl” and other typical high school students and cliques. Subplots include love triangles – including the “boyfriend torn between the two” scenario – as well as several red herrings with the means and opportunities to carry out a murder, causing audience members to wonder who the killer really is, Mills said.
Jessica, who’s directing the show, said audience members should be prepared to pay attention to details.
“Anybody who comes, they have to pay attention to all the little details,” she said. “We put a lot of little side things in, like funny little things you have to pay attention to.”
Mills said the show is a good blend of “comedy and horror” in the vein of the “Scream” genre. Though “A Murder at the Hill’s” isn’t a standard musical production, it does incorporate some modern tunes – including Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” – the actors sing along with, she said.
Two of the easiest things about the show, Mills said, have been costumes and the set. Because the characters in the show are high school students, most actors wear high school clothes that fit the personality of their character.
Mills also brought in some furniture from her garage to serve as part of the set.
The main challenge has been getting the word out. Because Spotlight Performing Arts Academy is a relatively new organization – it celebrated its first anniversary in August – many community members don’t know the place exists, Mills said.
“There’s a need for people to know that we’re here and why we’re here. We’re here because we want to build that sense of community,” Mills said. She added her vision is for Spotlight Performing Arts Academy to become a premiere community theater organization for Mint Hill and the surrounding area. “I really do see that happening in our future.”
Find more information at www.spot lightacademyonline.org.