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The Horse-Drawn Rural Academy Theater Kicks Off Its 2014 Tour in Western North Carolina on Sept. 20

by Jacquilyn Lavalle

Sept. 10, 2014. The Rural Academy Theater kicks off their 2014 tour in Lenoir on Sept. 20, bringing their horse-drawn carriage to the High Country. The troupe will be traveling through western North Carolina with no shortage of performances.

imgresFeaturing stops in Linville, Boone and Banner Elk, the tour will end on Oct. 18 in  Black Mountain. Admission to the shows is free.

A proud coalition of two and four-legged performers, the Rural Academy Theater has utilized horses and actors alike to perform their extraordinary spectacle for three years running.

“Not for Long,” a 15-minute piece, focuses on separating the human aspects of life from those of the land. Made up of several other pieces, the performance spans about one hour followed by a live band and a silent movie.

The traveling theater troupe got their start in a very simple way.

“We saw a need for something like this. We built the carriage from the ground up with mostly local materials and got some horses,” said co-creator Gabriel Harrell.

Many, if not all, of the members of the Rural Academy Theater possess multiple distinctive talents. Comprised of a triple threat singer-puppeteer-clown, a peach pit whittling horse handler and a cat named Kazoo, the troupe embodies all things eclectic. Quirky co-creators Gabriel and Noah Harrell double as members of the “Appalachian-Balkan-Brass-Blezmer-Dixieland-String ensemble.” Multiple fiddlers and singers, an accordionist, pianist, and clarinet player also join the brothers on stage.

When asked what life in a horse drawn carriage is like, Gabriel Harrell’s response was anything but surprising.

“It’s very slow,” said Harrell.

This is not a negative, but rather a positive source of joy for the theater players.

“Traveling at 2.5 miles per hour on mostly back roads, you get to interact with an meet the local people,” Harrell said.

The troupe has been connected with small town residents who have opened their homes, pantries and hearts to them.

“Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive with, of course, some bewilderment,” said Harrell.

It is very important for the troupe to incorporate the traditions of the region into each performance. Much of the inspiration for themes and storylines have come from the local people.

“You learn their stories and these stories become part of the show,” said Harrell. “You remind them that their land is valuable, not just something to mow.”

  • The Fall 2014 Schedule is featured below:
  • Sept. 20th- 8pm- Mulberry Recreation Center (720 Mulberry St., Lenoir)
  • Sept. 23rd- 8pm- 87 Ruffin St. Gallery (87 Ruffin St., Linville)
  • Sept. 25th- 8pm- Appalachain State University (Sanford Mall, Boone)
  • Sept. 26th- Time TBA- Jones House (604 W King St., Boone)
  • Sept. 28th- 8pm- Lees-McRae College (191 Main St. W, Banner Elk- Green Behind Cafeteria)
  • Oct. 1st- 8pm- Penland School of Crafts (67 Doras Trail, Penland- Central Green)
  • Oct. 3rd- 8pm- Arthur Morgan School (60 AMS Circle, Burnsville)
  • Oct. 7th- 7:30pm- Marshall High Studios (115 Blannahasset Island, Marshall)
  • Oct. 9th- 7:30pm- Franny’s Farm (38 Came Sharp Rd, Leicester)
  • Oct. 14th- 7:30pm- Earthaven Ecovillage (Old Fort, Directs at http://www.earthaven.com/visiting/how-to-get-here/)
  • Oct. 16th- 8pm- White Horse Black Mountain (105 Montreat Rd, Black Mountain)