Hillside director aims for Broadway

Drama Director Wendell Tabb said this year was one of the most successful in Hillside Theatre history. Why Mosquitoes Buzz ran at the school until late March.

Drama Director Wendell Tabb said this year was one of the most successful in Hillside Theatre history. “Why Mosquitoes Buzz” ran at the school until late March. Photo by Kristen Mayo


“Why Mosquitoes Buzz,” Hillside High School’s latest theater production, could be headed to New York City.

“We will be talking with the Curtis Brown Agency in New York about other viable options for ‘Why Mosquitoes Buzz,’” said Wendell Tabb, Hillside’s drama director.

“Based on our audience reaction, I think it could do very well off-Broadway and perhaps eventually on Broadway.”

The idea for the play came from one of Tabb’s former students, Jasmyne Jones.

“I knew I wanted to do a children’s show based on an already published book, so I started the negotiations during the summer of 2012,” Tabb explained.

“I contacted the New York agency of Curtis Brown LTD and illustrator Diane Dillon after Ms. Jones thought that Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears would be a great idea, since it was one of the books she read to her first grade students.”

“It was quite a long process to receive the rights to do the play,” he said.

If the play does hit Broadway, Tabb said there is a chance that some students will appear in the production again.

“It is our desire that this story will continue as part of the National Common Core Standards initiative and our young people from Hillside will remain a part of the cast,” he said. “I am sure there may be some re-casting with a big name artist, but the ensemble will remain Hillside students.”

Tabb has brought productions to New York before, most recently in the 2003-04 season. In his 26 years at Hillside, he has brought plays to six of the seven continents.

He said that the play was a “huge success” and that it was the first time Hillside staged a play based on an award-winning book.

“It is hard to obtain the rights to turn published books into plays or movies. We are extremely excited and blessed to have been given this opportunity,” he explained, adding that it took students six weeks to learn about and develop their characters.

Jones, the playwright for “Why Mosquitoes Buzz,” is a 2005 graduate of Hillside. She graduated from North Carolina Central University in 2008, with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a licensure in elementary education and middle grades language arts.

She now teaches first grade at Sandy Ridge Elementary School in Durham.

Tabb said he wanted to end the season with a show for children and family.

“All of our shows have equal importance,” he explained. “The shows teach valuable lessons one way or another.”

This season was “one of the best in the history of Hillside Theater,” Tabb stated.

“All of our shows did extremely well,” he said. “The selection of a great season is so important in the overall process and I think we hit the mark with this one.”