Play making debut in garden setting

Carley Gibbs, a labradoodle owned by Erika and Jeff Gibbs, plays the main character’s dog, Gonzo, in the garden play.

Morgan Harrison, from left, who has three roles in the garden play, is a hitchhiker in this scene with Stacey Libbert, dog actor Carley Gibbs, and Mary Keller.

Leighanne Martin Wright first wrote “Road Trip” for a movie script competition but later turned it into a garden play opening Friday evening in the Foothills Arts Council garden.

Five years ago, Leighanne Martin Wright wrote a play for a national movie script competition.

“I did not win, obviously,” she said, laughing. “That’s why I’m still in Elkin.”

Earlier this year, Wright, who is the executive director of the Foothills Art Council, started looking for another play to direct in the garden beside the arts council headquarters on Church Street, but couldn’t find anything she liked.

“Then I remembered I had this script and wondered if I could cut it down and make it a play,” she said.

First, Wright let Foothills Theater actor Stacey Libbert read the script to see what she thought of the idea. “Stacey said she would love to do it,” Wright said, “so we sat together and read through it, making it into a play. She helped me edit and add things that may have been missing from cutting too much.”

As they worked on it, Wright said, “We realized that some of the stage directions were really sort of silly, so we have a joke we say, ‘Well, it was a movie.’ That’s our tagline now.”

The cast even had T-shirts made with “It was a movie” printed on the back. “It’s an inside joke,” Wright said, “but we’ve had fun with it.”

Titled “Road Play,” Wright said the play is about a woman who, following the death of her mother, travels from Roanoke, Virginia, to San Fransisco, California, with her dog. Carley Gibbs, a labradoodle belonging to Erika and Jeff Gibbs, will be making her acting debut as Gonzo when the play opens Friday at 8 p.m. Performances also are scheduled for June 13 at 8 p.m. and June 14 at 2 p.m.

“I knew I needed a dog,” Wright said, “but it had to be a very large dog that would be calm enough to be in a play. I have a dog, but she’s not quite that large. She probably would have been OK, but she just didn’t really have the look.”

Wright said she saw Carley at 222 Public House, which is owned by the Gibbs, and noticed how calm and well-behaved she was. “I said, ‘I need this dog,’” she recalled, “and she’s worked out really well. She hasn’t had an audience in front of her yet, but we have hopes she’ll be OK.”

Others joining Libbert, Mary Keller and Carley in the cast include Anna Taylor, Grace Harrison, Morgan Harrison, Christie Harrison, David Nielsen, Sarah Moxley, Newell Hauser and Judy Deck.

Keller plays the main character, Leslie Parker. “I like the way the play explores the relationship between a young woman and her mother,” Keller said. “One of the things that’s kind of challenging and exciting about it is that it’s an original play, so I’m hoping to live up to the expectations of the author and director.”

“Road Trip,” which Wright said is not suitable for children, is the fourth play in which Keller has performed under her direction. “I think it will be somewhat unexpected,” Keller said. “People should come see for themselves. It’s a different kind of play … It would have made a great movie.”

Several of the actors in the play gathered in the garden Wednesday evening to rehearse for Friday’s performance. Judy Deck, who plays “a voice on the phone,” said she enjoys the garden theater productions because they are more intimate. “You get so close to your audience,” she said. “You can see their faces, and it’s just easier to connect with them.”

Morgan Harrison, who was also there, said he plays three roles: a hitchhiker named Caleb; Brendan, the brother of the main character; and a thief named Tate. Though he said he enjoys them all, Harrison said the role of Tate is the most fun.

For more information on the garden play, log onto

Kathy Chaffin may be reached at 336-258-4058.

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