By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
The director of a “comedic romp” now in rehearsal offered thoughts Friday about the process of getting it all on stage — and getting it right.
“Always a Bridesmaid,” set to premiere Nov. 7, at Butterfield Stage, is the latest piece from playwright trio Jones, Hope and Wooten and has been brought to the stage by director Sally Page, who helms regularly for the production company. The writers specialize in “Southern-fried” comedies with ensemble casts plus storylines that make chaotic humor out of subjects such as marriage, divorce and family tension.
Writers Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jaime Wooten were last associated with Butterfield through “Rex’s Exes,” a comedy that premiered in Gainesville in May 2012. Page directed that production and has returned with “Bridesmaid” to realize the trio’s text.
In both cases, she said, the shows are more or less tailor-made for a community theater audience.
“They keep in mind our concerns such as having only one set, no flying ghosts, and a high percentage of female actors, which is easier at audition time,” Page said Friday, about the writers. “And comedies or comedy-dramas tend to drawn in larger audiences.
“Because who wants to pay money to be depressed?”
“Bridesmaid” is set for shows on Nov. 7 through Nov. 9, and then Nov. 15 through Nov. 17. The comedy focuses on four middle-aged women: lifelong friends who vowed as teenagers to be involved in each other’s weddings, come what may. The women are observed though a storyline of seven years as they reunite and reflect on their marriages — some that have failed and some that are still to come — and hold out hope for a “perfect” wedding among them, whoever ends up with it.
Page said her take on the plays of Jones-Hope-Wooten is that they manage to be cleverly funny while sticking to universal themes.
“It takes a current, smart look at long-lasting friendships, and how friends show their love and support for each other,” she said Friday. “When the play selection committee sets our season, we look for classic pieces that have high exposure or title recognition like ‘On Golden Pond.’ Or scripts with author recognition, like Neil Simon.”
A common misnomer about comedy is that it’s easy for directors and actors to produce; actor-director Harold Ramis once notably said that comedy is rarely taken seriously for the simple reason that comedy is rarely serious.
But Page, a veteran director of plays, said comedy is absolutely more difficult than drama to bring to life.
“It’s so much more subtle in its presentation, except when doing slapstick,” she said. “The first responsibility of a director is to be true to the author's vision and themes, the second is to be true to the characters who express those ideas and the third is to be true to your actors’ intelligence and experience — or lack thereof — and abilities. The next is to be true to the audience by keeping the pace, visuals and volume at a level that enhances the production.”
The director added that the jobs of setting the pace and maintaining tone, in themselves, are mammoth.
“Because the director is never seen, often the audience is unaware of his contribution,” she said.
Cast and crew
From promotional material: The show features longtime Butterfield actress Sandy Geyer as Libby Ruth. Chelsea Grosskopf, a well-known and experienced actress from Denton’s Campus and Black Box Theaters, plays the about-to-be-married Kari Ames Bissette. Rachel Tillman Rodes, who plays Sedalia, returns to Butterfield following her title role in “Till Beth Do Us Part” plus roles in productions at the Pilot Point Opera House and the Denton Community Theater. And making her acting debut is local actress Gretchen Samsel playing the role of the multiwedded Monette. Butterfield regular Shelley Head joins the cast as the calm and no-nonsense Deedra. Charlie, the crotchety complainer who'll probably never tell anyone "I do" is played by Jocelyn “JoJee” Allgood, also making her debut.
To reserve tickets, call (940) 665-1284. The box office at 201 S. Denton St. in Gainesville is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Tickets are also available online at www.butterfieldstage.org.