CFHS thespians rehearse for "Death Ahoy."

CFHS thespians rehearse for “Death Ahoy.”

Emily Gibbons spends a lot of time in thrift stores looking for props.

For her current project, some of what she needs are colored gemstones and playing cards.

The sophomore is creating costumes for the characters in “Death Ahoy,” the improv production the Carolina Forest High School International Thespian Society will perform for the Horry County Literacy Council’s fundraiser.

The literacy council’s 14th annual murder mystery/dinner will be Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Dunes Club, 9000 N. Ocean Blvd at 6 p.m.

The $50 tickets are available at www.horrycountyliteracy.org or by calling 843-945-4105.

“We try to find as many opportunities for the students to get acting experience as we possibly can,” says CFHS theatre arts teacher Terri Cox about the thespian’s involvement in the fundraiser.

Some of what the actors say is scripted, but much is improvised when the audience, trying to solve the mystery, asks the characters questions.

“The guests are very serious about solving this murder mystery, and they really enjoy grilling the students, Cox says.

“So, the students have to know their characters backwards and forwards to answer whatever questions come at them.”

Proceeds from the sit-down dinner will be used for training volunteers and for supplies, says board chairperson Annette Staehle.

The local literacy council, at 1012 16th Ave. NW, Suite 116 in Surfside Beach, is 100% volunteer, and works one-on-one with people reading below fifth-grade level, those needing help to get a GED, and to identify people who need help with English as a second language.

There is also a program for people with learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

According to the literacy council’s website, children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.

Of adults with low literacy skills, 43% live in poverty and 70% of welfare recipients have low literacy skills.

More than $230 billion a year in health care costs are linked to low adult literacy.

Coastal Outdoor Advertising is a major sponsor of the “Death Ahoy” event which includes a silent auction.

Golf packages, airline tickets, team-signed basketballs, oil paintings and jewelry are among the items that’ll be up for auction.

In “Death Ahoy,” Gibbons adds the personal touches such as the playing cards to the gambler and the business cards to a real estate agent to help the audience remember who the characters are.

Freshman Daylon Malpass plays gambler Harv Carver, a suave-dressing conman whose character is very different from his own personality.

“We don’t say things we’d normally say, we have to constantly think what the character would say and answer that way,” he explains.

“Since most of this is not scripted, the students have to have opportunities to live and breathe as those characters before we get there,” Cox says.

“We rehearse during lunch, and they get into their costumes and we put them in situations where they have to respond in character.”

Senior Madeleine Guy brings the role of Rhoda Blogger, a billionaire, egotistical real estate tycoon.

Blogger, and several other characters in “Death Ahoy,” have what Guy calls a dark past, and the 17-year-old says it’s been a challenge to get into that darker side.

Guy’s played a golfer and a journalist in other productions, and has gotten into the mind of Blogger by keeping a journal as if she actually is the character.

“If I feel upset about something, I use that emotion and write an excerpt in my journal as if I am my character,” she says.

The young actress adds, “The best part of doing this role is that it’s helping the literacy council give people a chance to help themselves. It’s fun and it’s for a good cause.”

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