Hickory – Local actor Hudson Ackerman, of Bethlehem is making his Hickory Community Theatre debut in the cast of EATING BLACKBERRIES. The award-winning play from the American Association of Community Theatre’s NewPlayFest will have make its World Premiere on Friday, April 5 in the Jeffers Theatre.

In this dramatic comedy, a raging Mother Nature serves as the backdrop to shifting landscapes of human relationships. Set in Northern California, where wildfires and wildlife threaten, Elizabeth, recently divorced, and her teenage son, Jackson, prepare to move out of the former family home. A surprise visit by her ex, Paul, and his new pregnant wife, Sofia, erupts into a furious confrontation, leading to unexpected, and sometimes humorous, results.

In the play, Ackerman plays the teenage son, Jackson. EATING BLACKBERRIES is his first community theatre production. His previous credits include ALICE IN WONDERLAND in 2023 and a class silent film project in 2020 at Alexander Central High School, where he is also a member of the Beta Club. “My favorite thing about theatre,” he says, “is the portrayal of real feeling and emotion that video just can’t reproduce. I feel as if the character of Jackson references by own life. He has a poetic but sarcastic tone.” When not at school or on stage, Ackerman enjoys playing guitar, working on cars, writing and chess.

Joining Ackerman is Holley Dagenhardt, who plays his mother Elizabeth. Dagenhardt is no stranger to the stage, or the screen for that matter. She was most recently seen at HCT as Jean in POTUS, and played Cynthia Weil in the Green Room’s production of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL. Her television work includes roles in THE RIGHTEOUS GEMSTONES and ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME MARGARET. The UNC Chapel Hill graduate holds a Master’s degree in nutrition from Appalachian State University and runs her own nutritional consulting practice in Hickory. “My favorite thing about Hickory Community Theatre,” she says, “is that they offer great theatre close to home. I’m really excited to be part of brining a brand new play, and a brand new role to life.”

EATING BLACKBERRIES is one of six new plays chosen (out of hundreds of submissions) for the American Association of Community Theatres 10th annual NewPlayFest. HCT is the only Southeastern theatre chosen for the honor.

EATING BLACKBERRIES will run for three weekends, from April 5-20. Performances are at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30pm on Sundays. There is a bonus Thursday performance on April 18 at 7:30pm as well.

Tickets for BARBECUE are $16 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets may be purchased online at hickorytheatre.org or by phone at 828-328-2283.

EATING BLACKBERRIES is rated PG-13, with some adult language and themes.

EATING BLACKBERRIES is supported by the United Arts Council of Catawba County through the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, with funding from the State of North Carolina and from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Hickory Community Theatre’s 75th anniversary season is sponsored by A Cleaner World, Green Park Dentistry, Paramount Automotive and Sunbelt Xpress. The Hickory Community Theatre is a funded affiliate of the United Arts Council of Catawba County. EATING BLACKBERRIES is one of the winning original plays from the American Association of Community Theatre’s 2024 NewPlayFest.

PHOTO: Holley Dagenhardt (left) plays Elizabeth and Hudson Ackerman plays her son Jackson in EATING BLACKBERRIES. This World Premiere production will be on stage from April 5-20 in the Jeffers Theatre at the Hickory Community Theatre. Photo by Eric Seale.