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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo "There's a really haunting song that the characters sing throughout the play," says "Independence" director Natalie Lane. "This cast in particular, most of them have done several plays and musicals, so I can throw anything at them -- they're really hungry for character development, so I've had a ball doing that. These characters are very complex."

Theater is my true passion," says playwright Charlotte McCombs, whose play, "Independence," is premiering this weekend at Arts Live in Fayetteville. "I love it more than anything else, and I also love writing. So I wanted to combine my two loves into playwriting, which is my main focus right now."

This confident statement is all the more impressive when you realize that McCombs is only 15 years old.

"I started doing theater when I was 10," she says. She wrote "Independence," which follows one family's trip on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s, when she was 13. McCombs says the inspiration for the story came out of her love for a video game about traveling on the wagon route that linked Independence, Mo., to Oregon City, Ore.

"Since it was my first play, it was all very new to me, so I built it around the ideas for these characters and developed the story around them. I didn't have much experience with plot at that time, so it was definitely a more character-driven show when I first wrote it."

The fledgling author's talent was evident immediately, and her play landed a reading at TheatreSquared's Arkansas New Play Festival.



WHEN — 7 p.m. today; 2 & 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Arts Live Theatre, 818 N. Sang Ave. in Fayetteville

COST — $7-$9

INFO — 521-4932

Arts Live's Natalie Lane is directing the show. She says producing plays written by Arts Live students is another way for the theater company to celebrate the talent she sees every day in classes and productions.

"We've actually had a couple of other kids who also wrote plays approach us once they heard we were directing Charlotte's play," she says. "I think it's amazing. It's another strength to develop, and Mark [Landon Smith, Arts Live executive director] being 'Mr. Playwright,' they're in good hands."

Lane says that McCombs' facility with character and plot were remarkable for a playwright of any age, but especially for one of 13.

"The content is heavy," Lane says. "It's a family taking the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s during the Civil War. As I was reading it, I thought the characters were really interesting, and I thought it was really smart. Charlotte just chooses her words so carefully, and she's so complex for being so young."

After "Independence," McCombs will attend TheatreSquared's Shakespeare Academy for the fifth time. She'll travel to Los Angeles later this month to see a full production of her play "Chekhov's Gun," which was one of 12 plays chosen as the best submissions in the national Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival. Then she’ll head to the other side of the country to see a professional repertory company read her play “The Stars' Golden Glow” at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where it won the university's National Playwright Competition.

And she's working on a new play.

"Just by writing anything, you get experience," she says. "I've written plays that I've ended up trashing, but I still got the experience of writing those plays. It's helped me learn about stage direction, dialogue, character development. ... Nothing that I've ever done has not helped me in playwriting."

NAN What's Up on 05/18/2018

Print Headline: Young And Talented

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