Four Aiken County high school drama programs will participate in the eighth Garcia Theater Project at USC Aiken’s Etherredge Center on Friday.

Each team from Ridge Spring-Monetta High School, South Aiken High School, North Augusta High School and Midland Valley High School will compete with a one-act play of its choice.

The RS-M team will get the formal competition started at 12:30 p.m., followed by North Augusta at 1:25 p.m. Midland Valley actors will take the stage at 2:20 p.m., and South Aiken will provide the final performance at 3:15 p.m. The public is invited to watch the plays free of charge.

Awards for top plays and actors will be presented following the judging. Earlier in the day, the high school students will attend work sessions with USCA theater students, faculty and staff.

The event provides Aiken County students an opportunity to explore and develop their talents on stage and back stage. The project is coordinated through the University Theatre group and USCA with the support of Karen and Carlos Garcia.

“The Garcia Theatre Project is a wonderful opportunity for students to see what other students within the Aiken County School District are doing in theater,” said Prof. Jack Benjamin, chairman of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. “It gives them a chance to share their artistic talents with students with similar interests.”

Karen and Carlos Garcia began supporting dramatic arts efforts in 2003 and continued to do so with additional assistance from USCA and the Aiken County School District – all of it leading to the theater project.

“We applaud the dedication and talent of these student actors, as well as the teachers and Aiken County school administrators,” said Karen Garcia.

The drama coaches are Kerry Jackson, RS-M; Carol Creamer, North Augusta; Vanessa Cox, Midland Valley; and Ramona Parsons, South Aiken.

In 2012, Midland Valley High took first place with a large cast in the powerful drama “Freaks” by Angela Hill. Three South Aiken students took second place with the hilarious “Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.

“Freaks” is an unusual story about bullying and how a tormented high school student Monique finds herself in the company of other “Freaks.” Shakela Jones, who portrayed Monique, took one of two best-actor awards. She described it last year as the first time she had received a central role on stage.

“It was different than anything we’ve done at school,” she said then. “It was fun and exciting and also demanding.”