Bryan Station teen juggles dual acting roles in two theatres with 'Zombie in Love' and 'Jungalbook'

Cavan Hendron as Mortimer, Ashton Brown as Ring, Ainsley Hojnacki as Heart, Tessa Miller as Candy  in Lexington Children's Theatre's production of "Zombie in Love." Photo by Sally Horowitz.
Cavan Hendron as Mortimer, Ashton Brown as Ring, Ainsley Hojnacki as Heart, Tessa Miller as Candy in Lexington Children's Theatre's production of "Zombie in Love." Photo by Sally Horowitz.

Cavan Hendron, 17, has 30 minutes to grab a bite to eat and get from after-school rehearsals for Bryan Station High School's upcoming production of Jungalbook to evening rehearsals for Lexington Children's Theatre production of Zombie in Love.

"Luckily I haven't fallen behind on any of my schoolwork," Hendron says of his hectic day as he prepares to play two lead roles in two productions at the same time.

For LCT, Hendron plays Mortimer, a teenage zombie trying to find a date to a school dance, in an hourlong musical romp based on Kelly DiPucchio's book of the same title, with books and lyrics by Michelle Elliott and music by Danny Larsen.

At Bryan Station, he plays Baloo in Jungalbook, playwright Edward Mast's modern reimagining of Rudyard Kipling's classic, The Jungle Book. The play is set on a playground in a modern city instead of in the forests of India.

"The roles of Baloo and Mortimer are two of the toughest roles that I've ever had," says Hendron, who has trained for the stage since taking his first theater class at LCT at age 7.

"I can relate to Mortimer a lot more in the ways that he doesn't fit in in school as much as the other kids," Hendron says.

"With Baloo, it's been a challenge, because Baloo is very strict in the way that he follows the law of the jungle, Hendron says. "We open in a week, and I still haven't fully discovered him."

Meredyth Pederson, LCT's associate education director and director of Zombie in Love, says of Mortimer: "He's a teenager first and a zombie second, and he's trying to find his people, his friends and where he belongs."

Playing two major roles at the same time is a formidable feat even for professional actors, but Hendron has experience on his side.

Last year, he starred in A Charlie Brown Christmas and his school's production of I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a play by Celeste Raspanti about Jewish children who survived the holocaust.

Although he played extremely different characters in extremely different scenarios, keeping the two separate in his mind was a challenge, Hendron said.

"I actually said a Charlie Brown line in a show about the holocaust," Hendron says, laughing.

He has since devised strategies to help him tune in to whichever character he is playing.

"I will sit down and write out things the audience might not know," he says. "Maybe a character's favorite food, so I can get connected to the character a little bit and establish them in my head as two completely different individuals."

With two straight years of such high-intensity work under his belt, Hendron's next move could easily be pursuing an acting career in college and beyond. A senior, he has set his sights on the film industry. He wants to major in film with a minor in theater at either Western Kentucky University or Savannah College of Art and Design.

Also taking photography and sculpture this semester, Hendron is a multi-genre artist who wants to come back to Lexington after college and contribute to its burgeoning arts scene. He especially wants to play a role in the emerging film industry in Kentucky.

"I've met a lot of people here that are really into the film industry, and in my mind, it is unfair that you have to move out West to get a place in the film industry," he says. "I really want to try to move things over here to the East Coast, and specifically here in Kentucky. There's something about the landscapes and people of Kentucky that's so beautiful."

Hendron says he's glad to be part of a growing trend of young artists staying in Kentucky or returning after college to play a role in the arts.

"I've seen a lot of people my age who are stepping up and wanting to get more involved," he says.

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