by Sarah Einselen
In his first big theatrical role, Zach Hoover has a tall order.
The 15-year-old Logansport high-schooler portrays Buddy Layman in this weekend’s high school production, “The Diviners” written by Fort Wayne native Jim Leonard. It’s set in a small Indiana town at the beginning of the Great Depression, and Buddy — a teenager with developmental and emotional issues — is the one blessed, or cursed, with a miraculous ability to find water in the parched town.
“Presumably Indiana was somewhat dry, not as dry as Oklahoma, during the Great Depression,” said Ann Lines, the high school’s theater instructor and director for “The Diviners.” Legend has it that some people were “diviners,” or could use a supernatural divining rod to find sources of water.
“I had heard a lot about it,” Lines said of the play. Logansport high school students had enjoyed performing another of Leonard’s plays, “Anatomy of Grey,” in 2008, she recalled, so she thought they would also appreciate “The Diviners.”
“It actually has been popular in colleges and high schools as a competition play,” Lines said. She first saw it performed at a South Carolina high school.
Hoover has appeared in a few other local student productions — playing small roles in “Oklahoma!” and “Oliver” after starting in Junior Civic Theater’s production of “Cinderella” — but he said Buddy’s character was his first big part.
He enjoys it, though — “the way you’re out there every scene” is the best, he said, though the part’s also challenging.
“The way he talks in third person is very hard to comprehend,” Hoover said. “In the book it says he’s ‘idiotic’ but I think he just talks that way because he doesn’t know how else to talk.”
Buddy is also afraid of water, even though he’s the town’s “diviner.” A former preacher, C. C. Showers, comes to town with a few problems of his own and befriends Buddy before the play ends on a tragic note.
Lines said Showers’ character has been more challenging for student actor Luke Jackson, who has appeared in numerous local productions but is used to playing more extroverted parts.
Lines described the play as “very Our Town” — using few props and relying on lighting to distinguish among the 10 or so different locations in the story. The stage itself has been modified into a slope, a style known as “rake stage” designed so audiences in older theaters could see the action better.
“Getting used to the stage is kind of challenging,” said Kayla Brandt, 15. “I’m really used to the flat stage.”
A few other actors or stagehands have tripped on the sloped surface, she said.
“The Diviners” opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the McHale Performing Arts Center and will also be performed at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5 before showtime or $6 at the door. The McHale box office can be reached at 574-753-4116.
Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.
For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition.