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"The Trench" makes national debut in Westminster

Carter Johnson, as Herbert, acts out a scene during Liberty High School Thespian Troupe 984's production of "The Trench" at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster Saturday, Jan. 18.
Carter Johnson, as Herbert, acts out a scene during Liberty High School Thespian Troupe 984's production of "The Trench" at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster Saturday, Jan. 18. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

The award-winning European play "The Trench" made its national debut at Carroll Arts Center in Westminster Saturday. Liberty High School Thespian Troupe 984 performed the award-winning one-act play, which students hope will earn them a state championship at the Maryland State Thespian Festival for the third year in a row next weekend.

Some of the local theater students saw "The Trench" at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer. Since that time, the play, written by Oliver Lansley, has been touring sold-out venues across the United Kingdom.

"We were so captured by it, we wanted to see it again," said Carter Johnson, who plays the lead role of Herbert.

The production tells the story of Herbert, a miner who is engulfed in the ever-increasing horror of World War I until he is eventually trapped underground. There he encounters otherworldly creatures on a poignant journey of self-discovery. With a troll-like guide, Herbert overcomes his fears and finds the path to his true desires.

"You can find peace, even in the darkest of times," Johnson said, is one of the end messages of the play.

The physical theater production includes live music, puppetry, creative staging and choreography.

"It's a different form of theater than you have ever seen before," said Johnson.

Tony Cimino, the troupe's teacher and director, said the group is able to pull off professional-quality shows because they have committed to the process. He said they have worked together to build a community of artists.

"It's not an after-school activity for them," he said. "It's a lifestyle."

Cimino said after seeing the piece performed in Scotland, he got in touch with the writer to secure permission to produce "The Trench" in the U.S. He said after Lansley became aware of the quality and determination of the Liberty group, he eventually granted them the rights.

After next weekend's performance at the state festival, the troupe will give additional local performances at Liberty High Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

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