The Diviners
by Floyd Central Theatre Arts and Silver Creek High School

Floyd Central High School and Silver Creek High School teamed up to put on Jim Leonard, Jr.’s great American tragedy The Diviners, set during the beginning of The Great Depression in a very small fictional town of Zion in Southern Indiana, probably not far from the high schools’ non-fictional towns of Floyds Knobs and Sellersburg. The story couldn’t be much more different than Floyd’s entry into last year’s Thespian Festival – the hilariously outrageous Zombie Prom. Cleary the schools and their actors excel at a wide spectrum of material. 

The Diviners begins with the ending. Buddy Layman has gone on from this world. He drowned in the river. The slow boy who could divine water, but had a mortal fear of it. A fear sprung from a horribly traumatic incident in his barely remembered youth – the day he was saved from drowning. And the day that his mother died saving him. He doesn’t seem to exactly remember the event, but his fear of water is overwhelming, as is his longing to see his mother again, the confusion as to why he can’t, and a subconscious guilt over her loss. 

Aaron Mikel stars as Buddy Layman, a very difficult role demanding a transformation into the mentally challenged Buddy in voice, body language, humor, and drama – and without overdoing it. And Aaron embodies him with remarkable skill, making us laugh and sympathize and dread the end we know is coming. We see most of his personality come out through his new friendship with the stranger in town, Mr. C. C. Showers, a disillusioned preacher looking for odd jobs and resisting anything that smacks of religion. Colin Schreier is C. C., and he captures his character very naturally – a good guy who cares deeply about others, but is struggling with an inner pain of his own. Together they make a great team as Buddy revels in having a newfound “pal,” and as C. C. tries to use the friendship to help Buddy cure his growing itch caused by ringworms – a condition for which water may be the only thing that can help. 

Buddy ain’t the only person in the small town of Zion to take a shine to C. C. Showers. His older sister, sixteen-year-old Jennie Mae, becomes infatuated herself, despite C. C. being many years older and a bit awkward around her affection. And despite a bad, ill-timed joke about the bubbles in the creek being “fish farts.” Sarah Vogt delivers a great performance as the straight-talking Jennie as she does some highly amusing flirting with C. C. and tries to lovingly help her younger brother. 

The town is full of other well-portrayed characters. Katie Thurston is a riot as the very conservative Christian waitress Goldie Short who you don’t want to cross. As the old coot Basil Bennett, it’s truly hard to believe that Matt Payne is a high school student and not a sixty-year-old Southern man with a funny voice and personality. Meredith Haas complements him as his spunky and skeptical wife Luella. Taylor Walker makes for a good, gossipy Norma Henshow, and her niece Darlene would no doubt provide plenty of gossip material with the playful April Hill as the sexy town tart. When Melvin Wilder (Tim McDonald) tries to get Dewey Maples (Brad Ling) ready for a date with Darlene, it’s a memorable dancing lesson that might be gossip potential as well. And Kolton Norton is Buddy’s father Ferris who seems a bit distanced from the world, missing his wife and resisting the need to force his son to deal with the trauma that haunts them all. You wonder what his reaction will be when he hears that his son has now drowned as well. 

Co-Directors Chris Bundy and Jason Roseberry have actually collaborated on the show before. Several years ago Jason was C. C. Showers in Director Bundy’s Floyd Central production. Years later, Chris Bundy asked Jason to direct a show at Floyd Central, and he chose The Diviners. Now they direct together, and it’s clear that they have a love of the show and know how to help shape it into a story that can both charm with its small-town humor and hit you with its painful drama.

Performed June 26, 2008.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Basil Bennett: Matt Payne
Dewey Maples: Brad Ling
Buddy Layman: Aaron Mikel
Melvin Wilder: Tim McDonald
Luella Bennett: Meredith Haas
C. C. Showers: Colin Schreier
Jennie Mae Layman: Sarah Vogt
Ferris Layman: Kolton Norton
Norma Henshaw: Taylor Walker
Goldie Short: Katie Thurston
Darlene Henshaw: April Hill

Directors: Jason Roseberry and Chris Bundy
Stage Manager: Jennifer Broadus
Technical Director: Sean O’Sullivan
Lighting Director: Amie Villiger
Sound: Josh Stallings


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