Live Theatre Returns to Town

WLAC debuts two new shows this winter

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

During a normal season, the Warehouse Living Arts Center would present four main stage productions, a big musical at the Palace, two children’s shows, a selection of Fator Studio independent productions, and youth classes and camps. While the pandemic is still a present concern, the WLAC has put together some new shows because they, like so many, are hungry for live entertainment.

Back in July, the theater attempted to come back from quarantine and ring in some holiday cheer with A Doublewide, Texas Christmas. With COVID-19 spiking over the summer, both the main stage show and the youth production of Jungle Book had to shut down.

“It was a tough decision, but given all the moving parts of a production, stopping and starting with that constant risk of having to shut it all down again for another two weeks at any given point, it only made sense to postpone things,” said WLAC Executive Director, John Kaiser III.

Jay Jones, director of Doublewide, went into full Haywood Sloggett (the show’s resident curmudgeon) mode to add:

“Well, shoot dang! Our cast and crew are so excited to share A Doublewide Texas, Christmas with y’all. This crazy year has affected all of us and we here in Doublewide can’t wait to hear your laughter. Heck, we are so giddy about puttin’ this play on, y’all will probably catch us laughing a time or two! See y’all real soon at the Community Playhouse!”

A Doublewide, Texas Christmas is the sequel to the popular show Doublewide, Texas written by the comedy team of Jones, Hope. and Wooten. Directed by Jay Jones, the production stars Debbie Bigler as Big Ethel Satterwhite, Darlene Pleiner as Georgia Dean Rudd, Rachel Williams as Lark Barken, Jay Jones (stepping in for Stephen Elkins) as Haywood Sloggett, Jodi Vasquez as Patsy Price, Jarrod Lampier as Norwayne “Baby” Crumpler, Alyssa Dunnahoe as Joveeta Crumpler, Sharon Goodman as Caprice Crumpler, and Charles Dunnahoe as Nash Sloggett.

In this outrageously funny comedy, it’s Christmas-time in the newest—and tiniest—town in Texas, where it’s beginning to look a lot like trouble in Doublewide. Not only are the trailer park residents dealing with the stress of the holiday season, they’ve just discovered that Doublewide is being double-crossed by the county.

With their official incorporation papers in jeopardy, this band of eccentric Texans throw themselves into taking on the “Big Guys.” Determined to bolster their legitimacy, they first set their sights on the county-wide “Battle of The Mangers” competition. They conspire to win this smackdown with their “Nativity At The Alamo” entry… by any means possible.

Tickets to the general public go on sale Saturday, Nov. 21. A Doublewide, Texas Christmas runs from Dec. 1 through Dec. 6, with Dec. 5 and 6 being matinee performances starting at 2:30 p.m.

Due to limited seating to ensure proper social distancing and the production’s shorter run, the show will also be available to be streamed online as a prerecorded show featuring the original cast.

The Birthday Club is an experimental piece the Executive Director is calling “Readers’ Theatre”.

“The idea came from the desire to put on something for people to come see but greatly reduce the chance of having to shut it down; to reduce the number of factors involved that would be impacted if it were,” Kaiser said. “So I thought maybe we could just read from the scripts? Minimal set and props, some minor blocking, just a few rehearsals and then just a couple of performance readings.”

Kaiser has been speaking with a number of playwrights who have been gracious to send through some unpublished works to develop.

“This is a great way to offer something new and unique to our community, as well as provide much needed feedback to these playwrights,” Kaiser said.

Five women get together for their birthdays, each with their own story, where they can gather to drink, celebrate, commiserate, and support each other as they negotiate through marriage, work, divorce, birth, kids, and solve the problems of the world.

Cheryl, Kathy, Emily and Abbie started Birthday Club five years ago when their friend, Jennifer, was diagnosed with cancer, as a support group to help her get through it. When Jennifer recently passed away, they had an opening for a new member.

However, it’s not easy to join Birthday Club. Birthday Club is very exclusive, and there is a three year waiting list. They bring in Sarah as a potential member, but first Sarah must make it through the “interview” and agree to abide by the eight rules of Birthday Club, to be considered an official member.

One by one, the audience learns of their personal, work and family issues, until it’s revealed that one of the members has broken a rule. The question is: will Birthday Club survive, or will Rule #5 end it forever?

The Birthday Club, a comedy written by Phil Olson, will be the first Readers’ Theatre production with only two performance readings: Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 22 at 2:30 p.m. The show stars Syma Moody as Cheryl, Ashley Holmes as Emily, Anna Stroder as Abbie, Kati Tibbits as Kathy, and Lindsey Branch as Sarah. Lynne Cloy serves as the stage manager, and John Kaiser III as director.

There will be no reservations and no tickets sold for these shows, though attendees can make a donation at the door. Open seating is available, but patrons are asked to leave two seats between groups, and one row of seats between rows.

For more information on both shows, visit theWLAC.com.

Photos Courtesy of Justin Williams.