published Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Death of Rhea County child inspires teen's play 'Changed'

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    From left, "Changed" actors Kaitlyn Couch, as Detective Jones, struggles with her abductor Dan, played by April Hackler, while Savannah Kelly's character, as the murdered victim's daughter, Tessa, waits for potential harm. The play's writer, 15 year-old Bailey Hufstetler, said that the play's dramatic theme about child abduction was inspired by the tragic death of toddler Landon Robbins in Rhea County earlier this year.
    Photo by Photo: Kimberly McMillian
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IF YOU GO

* What: "Changed," a play about murder and a child's abduction

* When: Today at 7:30 p.m.

* Where: Tennessee Valley Theatre, Spring City, Tenn.

* Admission: Tickets are $5

* Learn more: Contact Bailey Hufstetler at 423-618-6944, bailey.heroesandangels@gmail.com or visit www.heroesandangels.net.

SPRING CITY, Tenn. — For 15-year-old playwright Bailey Hufstetler, tackling dramatic themes in his play "Changed" was inspired by the tragic loss of 5-year-old Rhea County resident Landon Robbins earlier this year.

"It was born out of a tragedy," Hufstetler said this week after a dress rehearsal.

The play, Hufstetler's second, deals with the tragic death of a young mother named Carrie and the abduction of her daughter, Tessa. Detectives investigate the slaying and try to locate the child before another one occurs.

Landon died after being forced to drink liquid soap and eat cigarette butts, according to investigators. His mother, Jessica Robbins, and her boyfriend, Bradley Adcox, face felony charges including first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in the case.

"The Landon thing hit us [as a county]," Hufstetler said, and it inspired him to start the charity organization Heroes and Angels to increase awareness of child abuse, whether physical or emotional.

Hufstetler said the 60-minute play took him three days to write.

Veteran actor Kaitlyn Couch, 17, who plays lead Detective Jones, said that she took the part immediately, largely because of her friendship with Hufstetler.

"I'm proud of him and what he's doing with this charity," she said.

April Hackler, who is the charity's coordinator and portrays Dan the child abductor in the play, said she hopes the play will offer "a voice for the child who can't stand up for herself."

"I hope Heroes and Angels will help children nationwide to come forward and teach them it's not OK to be abused," said Tina Wade, who plays the victim's friend Shelly.

The play features debut actors Hackler and Jada Reece as murder victim Carrie. Other actors include Savannah Kelly as abducted child Tessa, Kristen Liles, Lisa Price and McKenzie Willis.

For more information about the Tennessee Valley Theatre's seasonal productions, go to www.tennesseevalleytheatre.com.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net.

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