Tony Award-winning theater educator and director Corey Mitchell has come to Hickory to direct the musical “Hair” at the Hickory Community Theatre.

Originally from Iredell County, Mitchell found his passion for theater early in life and remembers performing in short PTA performances in kindergarten.

“I really did get strongly involved as a teenager in high school,” Mitchell said. “I remember doing ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ as a freshman.”

Mitchell said working as a teacher at Charlotte’s Northwest School of the Arts allows him to work with students of many different backgrounds, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses.

“When I was a kid, I loved the television show ‘Fame,’” Mitchell said. “When an opportunity opened up to teach at a performing arts school I honestly thought it was going to be like Ms. Lydia on ‘Fame’ coming in … it’s not quite like ‘Fame,’ but it’s still fun.”

Mitchell said his school doesn’t have sports.

“There is no basketball,” he said. “I swear they would be decimated anyway. Quite often the claim to fame for these kids is when it comes to the cast list.”

Mitchell said his favorite show is “Hello, Dolly.”

“It is a story about the American spirit,” Mitchell said. “The music is uplifting.”

Mitchell said he discussed coming to Hickory for a couple of years to direct a show.

While deciding on which show to do, Mitchell thought back to when he first started teaching at his school in Charlotte. “I started at my school in 2001. Quite literally a month after I started was September 11. Every single child that I teach has never known peace time,” Mitchell said. “’Hair’ to me is one of those shows that says ‘Enough. Why are we doing this? What the hell are we fighting for?’”

“It’s not just Hickory,” Mitchell said. “If someone asked me to come and make a statement about war and it was wherever, I would do that because I think that is an important message that needs to be out in the public.”

Mitchell said he hopes his show will start discussions among those who see it.

“The music has become a fabric of the American songscape,” he said. “Hopefully it is a trip back towards a remembrance of songs that we’ve known and see it in context of the show.”

Mitchell said that much of the cast is from Catawba County but some also come from Lenoir, Boone and Charlotte. “There are a number of people driving from pretty good distances to be part of this experience.”

“This has been a really positive experience,” Mitchell said. “I truly enjoy working here in Catawba County. I really do hope people will come out and see the show. I think a lot of people have the perception that all people are doing is taking drugs and getting naked in the show, but there is a much deeper message to that and much higher purpose. I applaud Hickory Community Theatre for taking on a show that very well could be controversial.”

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