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Mauzy Melds Appalachian and Ancient Cultures, Shows Thursday and Friday Night

Story and Photos by Jessica Isaacs | jessica@highcountrypress.com

What haunts you?

Explore a fusion of Appalachian culture, storytelling traditions and ancient Japanese tales at In/Visible Theatre’s latest world premiere, Mauzy, which will show beginning at 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights, July 28-29.

The Boone-based arts organization will take audiences on an emotive, elemental journey back to October 1929 for a story of love, loss, music, reinvention through storytelling and the everlasting nature of the things that haunt our pasts.

Actor performances and live renditions of traditional Appalachian music intertwine in Mauzy to tell the tale of a traveling minister and two mysterious young sisters who offer him refuge in their secluded home from tempestuous mountain weather.

Derek Davidson and Karen Sabo are pictured in the Valborg Theatre at Appalachian State University during a rehearsal for <i>Mauzy</i>.
Derek Davidson and Karen Sabo are pictured in the Valborg Theatre at Appalachian State University during a rehearsal for Mauzy.

The show was commissioned by the multidisciplinary An Appalachian Summer Festival and will be held in Appalachian State University’s on-campus Valborg Theatre on both nights. The Thursday night show will feature an ASL interpreter to accommodate a wider audience.

The husband-and-wife team behind In/Visible Theatre — Derek Davidson, artistic director, and Karen Sabo, artistic producer — established the organization several years ago after careful and patient planning.

“Derek and I had been talking since about 2006 about starting a theatre. We have a very similar artistic philosophy and we were working for Barter Theatre at the time, which is a wonderful place, but is a fairly mainstream theatre,” said Sabo. “We’re a little bit fringe, even for theatre, which is sort of a fringe media of itself, so we had bonded over our artistic philosophy and were just looking for the right place to have this theatre. Then, when we had the opportunity to move to Boone in 2010, we realized this was the right place.”

Since its inception, In/Visible has produced several shows, which include:

  • Bumbershoot, which was named Best of the Best at the New York Fringe Festival
  • A studio production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, one of the few In/Visible productions that was not an original piece, although it was the first local production of the show in recent history
  • Kill Will, a show focused on death and fight scenes from Shakespeare plays that was part of the High Country Shakespeare Celebration
  • A solo show called Groundwork, which actor Mike Ostroski has been taking across the country since 2014
  • Without Words, an adaptation of Susan Schaller’s book A Man Without Words that was commissioned for An Appalachian Summer Festival in 2015

Mauzy, In/Visible’s latest labor of love, is a reinvention of the 600-year-old Japanese Noh play Matsukaze. Both the Mauzy and its inspiration feature the lingering spirits of two sisters who died of grief after the loss of a true love and the double meaning of the word “pine.”

Actors Kadey Lynn Ballard and, who play the sisters Mauzy and Rainey, are pictured in the foreground during a recent rehearsal. Behind them, actor James Coble, who plays a traveling preacher, is pictured.
Actors Kadey Lynn Ballard and Savannah Bennett, who play sisters Mauzy and Rainey, are pictured in the foreground during a recent rehearsal. Behind them, actor Jared Coble, who plays a traveling preacher, is pictured.

“Derek encountered this when he was in his PhD program studying world history and the history of theatre,” Sabo said. “He found it to be a very moving story about these two sisters who pined away because of lost love, and it was always a story that stuck with him and was on his list of things he might like to adapt someday.”

The show boasts an impressive lineup of talent, including respected local musicians, seasoned performers and two visiting actors.

“People who are really interested in Appalachian music will really love that part. We have some topnotch musicians. The story is intriguing, moving and very pertinent for our time period, even though the show takes place in 1929,” Sabo said. “People who are interested in current events will find a lot of things we’re talking about currently in our society in our show. We’re also really lucky to have some great young actors in the show, and one great middle-aged actor.”

Davidson and Sabo say they’re grateful for the opportunity to do a commissioned piece for An Appalachian Summer Festival and the creative license they’ve been granted to pursue the work that interests them most.

“It’s amazing, and it’s really unusual for a festival like this, which presents shows that other people have already created and often are touring or are already up. For them to do this very special thing with In/Visible Theatre, it’s really a great honor,” said Sabo. “The other theatre piece that was here was with the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and they’ve been touring for 20 years. They’re a really well known company and their really fun shows are produced all over.

“For us to be in the same festival with them is really an honor. To be in the festival at all gives us a great feeling of legitimacy about our work, which we feel is high quality and important, and we’re thrilled to have this sponsorship.”

While Mauzy will only feature two performances during the festival, Davidson and Sabo say its underlying motif may resurface in a later work by In/Visible.

“We’re actually really intrigued by this whole thing about the two sisters, and I have a show that I would like to develop that would also have music and movement and dancing that is based on that two sisters story that we have in a lot of different cultures,” said Sabo. “This would be based more on that wind and rain song about the two sisters. We may have another sisters show in a few years.”

Tickets and Details

Mauzy will be presented at 8 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday nights, July 28-29, in Appalachian State University’s on-campus Valborg Theatre.

Tickets are available online at $20 for adults and $10 for students and children.

Call 828-262-4046 for tickets or visit the online box office at appsummer.org, where you’ll also find parking information.















Valborg Theatre
Valborg Theatre


The Mauzy Cast


Hickory, North Carolina native James Gaither will play the role of Isaac the musician in Mauzy, his first In/Visible Theatre performance. Gaither studied fashion for one year at North Carolina A&T University and is now a drama student at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. This singer and saxophone player was cast from a video audition


Kadey Lynn Ballard played “Young Susan” in In/Visible’s summer production of Without Words in 2015. She’s a member of Charlotte’s experimental theatre company, XOXO Performance. A graduate of Lees-McRae College, she has also worked in Israel and New York. She also holds a certificate in permaculture design from Hava ve Adam Ecological Farm.


A seasoned In/Visible theatre collaborator, Teresa Lee has appeared in and directed numerous stage readings for the organization. She acted and did selected fight choreography for Kill Will, In/Visible’s exploration of fighting and death scenes from Shakespeare plays. She is a professor of acting, movement and children’s theatre at Appalachian State University.


Savannah Bennett is performing with In/Visible Theatre again this summer after appearing in Without Words in 2015. She is a junior at Appalachian State University majoring in molecular biology with a minor in theatre arts and is originally from Asheville. Regional/Local: Urinetown (Hope Cladwell), Assassins (Ensemble), Chicago (Velma), The Vagina Monologues.


Jared H. Coble recently finished his schooling at both Appalachian State and Penn State University’s theatre departments. He has performed a variety of roles, including Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Moritz Steifel in Spring Awakening, Wyndham Brandon in Rope and Damis in Tartuffe. He also enjoys playing percussion, singing acapella and writing bad poetry. This is his first time working with In/Visible Theatre.


Lauren Hayworth is our Musical Director (and an actor) for Mauzy, and she’s lived in Boone since 2006 when she came to pursue a graduate degree in music. She works in administration in ASU’s Hayes School of Music. She performs regularly with the big band Swing Set, the gypsy jazz combo The Djangovers and the vocal trio The Mercury Dames. Her most recent stage role was Sister Mary Amnesia in the Beanstalk Theatre’s production of Nunsense. Her husband, Jake McGuire, is one of our featured visual artists in the Jones House Mauzy display for the month of July.