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Baseball diamonds are a local boy’s best friend

by Mark Burger

The Final Season is a new film based on the actual story of an Iowa town where baseball reigns supreme. The little town of Norway enjoyed an unprecedented string of state high-school baseball championships.

All that would come to an end in 1991, when the school board implemented a redistricting plan that would merge Norway with the nearby high school in Madison. The Norway Tigers found themselves playing their last season.

The film stars Powers Boothe as the legendary coach Jim Van Scoyoc, who was ousted before Norway’s final season and Sean Astin as Kent Stock, the first-time assistant coach tapped to lead the Tigers during their final season.

Portraying Patrick Iverson, the captain of the Norway Tigers, is fast-rising young actor Brett Claywell, who grew up in Greensboro and still has strong ties to the region. Claywell graduated NC State with a major in architecture and a minor in acting.

The Final Season was written and directed by David Mickey Evans (of The Sandlot fame).

Evans kept the young actors playing ballplayers on their toes, first by switching their roles shortly before shooting began, and then by having Claywell acting as captain of the team both on and off the set. If someone blew a take or a play, Claywell was the first one to hear about it – and was expected to rectify it.

“It’s difficult enough to build a rapport with the other actors,” he says, “and instantly I’m thrown into the captain’s role.”

This initially caused some tension between him and the director.

“We really butted heads,” Claywell admits. “When you get two creative, passionate people together, that’s going to happen. It’s about making something good, better. He and I recognized that in each other, and from that got to be very close and have become very good friends. The movie would not be the movie it is without him.”

As a student at Dudley High School, Claywell played six sports. Amazingly, baseball was not one of them. (His track coach advised against it.)

Nevertheless, Claywell certainly has considerable baseball experience; his father went to college on a baseball and basketball scholarship and later became a coach. Even if Claywell wasn’t playing baseball proper, many nights he would throw the ball with his father.

Like many North Carolina actors, Claywell did a stint on “Dawson’s Creek,” followed by a recurring role as Tim Smith on “One Tree Hill.”

In addition to playing baseball, Claywell also enjoyed working with coaches Van Scoyoc and Stock, both of whom acted as technical advisors on the film.

“I wasn’t a great hitter,” Claywell says, “and there were little things they could teach me so that I could at least get by.” (Nevertheless, he insists, “I’m a heck of a softball player!”)

Establishing a respect for onscreen coach Powers Boothe was no problem whatsoever, according to Claywell.

“He’s scary,” Claywell laughs. “He is a tall, big man and when you hear that voice, you suddenly find yourself snapping to attention. He has exactly the name he should have!”

Claywell’s career has been shifting into high gear the last couple of years. In addition to The Final Season, he also appears in the comedy romp Senior Skip Day (which reunited him with his Final Season co-star Larry Miller), which is scheduled to be shown at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival next month.

I used to cover that festival when I lived in South Florida. What a party!

Claywell also co-stars in the shocker Babysitter Wanted, which is scheduled to be shown at the Hollywood Film Festival this month in time for Halloween.

“It’s a good horror film,” he says.

Then there’s Legacy with Haylie Duff and Tom Green, a black comedy about the discovery of a body on a college campus, “which is really something different,” Claywell says.

Last weekend, after visiting friends and family in Greensboro, he was scheduled to be one of the celebrity judges for the Miss Virginia Pageant.

“It’s a horrible life, to hang out with fifty beautiful pageant contestants,” a deadpan Claywell sighs, “but somebody’s gotta do it!”

* * *

If you’re looking for something a little different this Halloween, you might want to check out the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, which has a vast selection of costumes and accessories on hand, and will happily rent them to you in advance of Halloween parties.

The costume shop’s regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Hours have been expanded to accommodate potential demand: The costume shop will also be open Thursdays (Oct. 18 and 25) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Feel free to drop by and browse at the costume shop, which is located in the lower level of the Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem.

The costume rental fee starts at $35 (very reasonable), and proceeds from the rentals will add a few dollars to the Little Theatre’s coffers – which is a good thing.

For more information, call 336.748.0857, ext. 201 or 336.748.0857, ext. 205. Tell ’em you read about it in YES! Weekly.

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