A! Magazine for the Arts

Bid for Extra Credit Earns THS Seniors a Barter Drama Award

December 17, 2006

Unto These Hills is a 9?-page play about two brothers - Cliff and Dwayne - and their friend Honeycutt.

The boys spend about 15 years selling moonshine. The dealings end up destroying their friendship and killing other close friends. One day, the police find out about the illegal alcohol, and it all goes downhill from there.

"There's a part where they come out of hiding from the cops," said Craig Rockett, the play's co-author. "Dwayne is being quiet, and all of a sudden he pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot anybody who goes any further. He's sick of his friends dying."

But, it gets even better.

"When the play ends, you hear gunshots, so you don't know if the cops shot or Dwayne shot someone or himself," said co-author Jason Terrill.

The play is dramatic. It was created by three Tennessee High School seniors - Rockett, Terrill and 17-year-old Hunter Perrin.

The play started out as an extra-credit assignment in the students' Advanced Placement English class. Weeks later, the three seniors submitted their play in Barter Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival contest. It won first place and $300.

"They did a lot of great action in the play where they conveyed something with their actions without spelling it out in the dialogue," said Tere Land, Barter's tour coordinator. "There was conflict, there was action, the dialogue was there. It was a very good play."

Barter's playwriting contest started in 2002 and solicits original plays written by Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia high school students. The top entries earn cash awards. The contest is designed to stretch students' writing abilities.

Land said the students' play was so good that it was performed in front of 100 people at Barter Theatre in Abingdon early last month.

"When they announced third place, we were like, 'Whoa! We're either second or first'," said Rockett, 18. "And then they said the second place, and it wasn't us so we freaked out."

"It was awesome to see our words and actions put out in front of us," Perrin said.

The three students began brainstorming ideas for the play two weeks after the school year started. Perrin thought of the moonshine theme, they said.

"We even went to my grandmother's friend who used to buy moonshine," Terrill said. "Craig and I went and sat with him for an hour listening to stories. We actually used some of the names and dealers he told us about."

The students said the toughest part was finding time to meet up because each student had after-school athletics.

"We got together two times, but Craig spent three hours writing the lines," Terrill said.

Land said this was the first year THS entered the contest. The boys were just shocked to win because they had no playwriting experience, the students said.

"The thing that really fueled us to do it was the extra credit, but it turned out that it was good," Terrill said.