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Tuesday August 3rd

'A universal kind of play': Local playwright brings 'Carolyn Adams' to Carrboro

Gwyneth Benitez-Graham plays Grace in the play “Carolyn Adams," premiering at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro on Nov. 1. Photo courtesy of Full Nelson Theater.
Buy Photos Gwyneth Benitez-Graham plays Grace in the play “Carolyn Adams," premiering at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro on Nov. 1. Photo courtesy of Full Nelson Theater.

“Carolyn Adams” is a story of memory and friendship, love and regret, but most of all, it’s a story of second chances. 

“Carolyn Adams” is an original play written by Mark Cornell. Produced by Full Nelson Theater, performances of "Carolyn Adams" begin at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro at 8 p.m. on Nov. 1. Performances run through Nov. 10. 

The show is set in northern California and takes place over the course of one evening. The plot centers around the owners of a used sports equipment shop as they watch Monday night football with their friends. This weekly gathering is disrupted when Grace arrives at the shop, bearing a striking resemblance to a girl named Carolyn Adams, who died when the friends were in high school many years ago.

Cornell uses the mystery surrounding Grace to develop themes of friendship and regret. He said he hopes, above all, that the show both entertains the audience and is relatable to them.

“It’s more of a universal kind of a play that I think all people can connect to,” Cornell said. “Anyone who’s ever been in love, anyone who’s had regrets, anyone who has trouble letting go of things.” 

Cornell drew inspiration from the Irish playwright Conor McPherson and uses “Carolyn Adams” to explore the idea of reincarnation. 

“It took me a while to figure out what I thought the play was about and what I wanted to say,” Cornell said. 

He said that although it plays an important role in the plot, reincarnation is not the main focus of “Carolyn Adams.” Rather, the story uses this theme to develop the more prominent idea of second chances. 

Playwrights Cornell and Paul Newell formed Full Nelson Theater in 2017, hoping to bring more original theater to the Triangle. The company’s debut, “Dawn’s Early Light,” was performed at The Cary Theater. “Carolyn Adams” is the company’s fourth production and is funded by the Manbites Dog Theater Fund.

The cast of “Carolyn Adams” is comprised of six actors — Newell, Mark Jantzen, Evit Emerson, Ryan McDaniel, Will Pierson and Gwyneth Benitez-Graham. The show’s small cast and uninterrupted narrative work fully immerse the audience in the scene and highlight the relationship between the two shop owners, Cornell said. 

Director Nancy Lane said that Full Nelson Theater’s focus on original work is remarkable. This is her first time working directly with the playwright during a production.

“It’s been very enriching," Lane said. "When I’m missing something, he can point it out to me (and) I can ask him a question. The dialogue has been terrific.”

Benitez-Graham, who plays Grace, is a sophomore at UNC majoring in dramatic art and minoring in chemistry. She said she also appreciates the theater company’s emphasis on local theater and original work. 

"Theater brings something positive to the community,” Benitez-Graham said. “Everyone in the cast really loves what they’re doing.”

As the youngest person in the cast, she said that “Carolyn Adams” has been a valuable learning experience for her. 

“It’s been hard to juggle,” she said. “But I wouldn’t be as happy if I wasn’t doing it.”

@lizcj00

arts@dailytarheel.com

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