Last May, Will Swisher was standing in line to receive his diploma from the School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Lafayette High School when a teacher walked by and declared, "Congratulations, boys; it's all downhill from here."
"I immediately started texting everyone, saying, 'We've got a name: Downhill From Here," Swisher says. "And they replied, 'Hey, that sounds great.'"
"Everyone" was fellow SCAPA graduates Miles Conger and Garett Wilson from the theater program, and Andrew Wiemann from dance. What they had been struggling to name was a show they were planning to put on during the summer, before they went their separate ways.
"We all decided that we wanted to put on a show before we all left," says Conger, who is going to Northern Kentucky University.
Swisher, who is off to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, says, "We are separating, ... so the probability of the four of us getting to perform together is really slim."
And there were circles they wanted to complete. Swisher says he and Wiemann did only musicals together at SCAPA, so they wanted a chance to do straight theater.
Their creation, to be presented Friday through Sunday at ArtsPlace, reflects their relationship over the years.
"Every time we see each other, we always make reference to a sketch or comedy bit we saw some famous pair do a long time ago and we saw it on YouTube or someplace like that," says Wilson, who works at Comedy Off Broadway and is taking a semester off before starting college. "We decided, let's filter through those, pay homage to them, write some stuff of our own and throw it together into a lovely sketch show."
The group drew its inspiration from the duo Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, the Three Stooges and Saturday Night Live. Some of the material was drawn from sketch books owned by their theater teacher, Paul Thomas, who is getting in on the last-hurrah spirit of the event by directing the show.
The bits include the original work 7-Eleven, in which a pair holding up a convenience store discover they have serious trust and self-esteem issues. Meanwhile, the clerk sabotages their heist plans.
There also are distinctly British sketch bits, including an interviewer whose tics drive his interviewee to distraction and a police interrogation in which the officer zeroes in on a much smaller crime than what's sitting right in front of him. There will be audience participation and an underlying story that ties the show together.
Adding to the sense of growing up and moving on is that the four 18-year-olds take on all aspects of producing the show, with some help from LexArts and Lexington Children's Theatre.
"It started off as a 'Wouldn't it be cool if ... ' and then people started saying, 'That would be awesome.' You should definitely do this,' I'd come and bring my friends," Swisher says. "We got that support, and that's what pushed us to do it."
The show will be a tribute to their years at SCAPA and the course the school has set for their lives.
"Being in the shows together, there's nothing like it," says Wiemann, who is going to Nashville's Belmont University.
"We're all continuing on in theater," Swisher says. "This is kind of see you later, au revoir for Lexington.
"We could do another one, but next summer we hope to have internships or jobs, so we don't know when we'll be back together."
Wilson says jokingly, "I plan to be a big star, dating Emma Stone, so I probably won't have time."