Saturday, September 22, 2007

Finding the We of Me - Opening Night at "The Member of the Wedding"

Posted by Bruce Miller

I've just returned from the wonderful Opening Night of The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers at Barksdale Willow Lawn. Along with James Joyce's The Dead, The Member of the Wedding is that rare commodity on our Signature Season--a highly theatrical evening that is language- and character-driven rather than plot-driven. I love the variety and depth that it adds to our roster. I especially love this production.

Scott Wichmann has directed an evocative evening that emotionally transports us back to the sultry Southern summers of Carson McCullers' early adolescence. The Member of the Wedding is a part of our continuing Women's Theatre Project, and the story it tells is certainly born in a woman's heart.

At least one vibrant post-show discussion revolved around whether McCullers' classic tale is the story of Berenice Sadie Brown, the big-hearted domestic brilliantly played by Katherine Louis in a star-making performance, or the story of Frankie Addams (or F. Jasmine Addams as she prefers to be called), the lonely and precocious 13-year-old played with staggering sensitivity by real-life 13-year-old Lexi Langs.

Part of the magic woven by McCullers, Wichmann and our two outstanding actresses is that the evening somehow manages to focus alternately and simultaneously on both. It's almost as if the soul of the play combines both women into one: half adult and half child, half grounded and half lost, half privileged and half trodden down. Not unlike Carson McCullers herself (pictured above and to the left with the original Berenice, Ethel Waters).

Joining in the standing ovation awarded the production were steadfast supporters Mr and Mrs Reid Ashe, Tom and Carlene Bass, Page Bauder, Rosanna Bencoach, Dr. John and Mary Jane Board, Cammie Carlton, Carrie Galeski, Bev Kniffen, Charlotte and Andy McCutcheon, Suzanne Pollard, Essie Simms and Isabella Witt. That's the back of Charlotte's head in the photo above and to the right talking with director Scott Wichmann at the post-show party.

Other theatre artists in attendance included Jan Guarino and her children Nora and Zack (Jan is starring in our upcoming Swingtime Canteen at Hanover Tavern); Julia Greer, Hannah Miller and Ali Thibodeau from the cast of Disney's High School Musical (Julia and Hannah are pictured to the left); Annie Hulcher from Annie Get Your Gun; Alex Samawicz and his date (Alex played trumpet in Into the Woods); Melissa Johnston-Price and her daughter Meg (Melissa rushed in from rehearsal for Spinning Into Butter at the Firehouse); Terrie Powers (our designer extraordinaire at Hanover Tavern); Stacy Reardon (actor alum from The Full Monty and The Wizard of Oz); and Russell Rowland fresh from his Princely duties in Into the Woods.

Hard working staff members on hand included Emily Cole Bitz, Andy Boothby, Judi Crenshaw, Catherine Dudley, Jackie Gann and her newlywed husband Bobby, Jean Hartley, Lucas Hall, Chase Kniffen, Sara Marsden, Billy Christopher Maupin, Steve Perigard, Joy Ross, Janine Serresseque, Wendy Vandergrift, Jennings Whiteway (responsible for the wonderful party), Phil Whiteway (laughing with our leading lady at the post-show celebration), and Ginnie Willard.

Providing all the luster were the stars of the evening: director Wichmann; designers Brian Barker (sets), Derek Dumais (sound) and Lynne Hartman (lights); stage managers Bo Wilson and Jody Smith Strickler; console operator Lynwood Guyton; props master Lynn West; and cast members Katherine Louis, Lexi Langs, Eric Evans, Carl Calabrese, Christine Schneider, David Bridgewater, Jill Bari Steinberg, Alec Stephens III, Tony Cosby (WELCOME HOME TONY!), Erin Kate Bradner, Katy Burke and Zac Wilson. That's Eric, Zac and Lexi in the photo above and to the left, at the post-show party.

No one can say what the critics will think, but please know that Phil Whiteway and I are very proud of this production. We hope you'll join us soon for this compelling, soul-stirring and uniquely American classic.

--Bruce Miller


Scott Wichmann said...

Congratulations to this fantastic cast and crew. I am still awake at 4:30am listening to the crickets and remembering what a wonderful night it was. Thanks for the wonderful opportunity to connect with such a special group; Kudos to you, Bruce, and the entire Barksdale family!!

Anonymous said...

I believe I spied Sara Marsden and Wendy Vandergrift there as well.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see the play. With the most talented director and cast, it can't miss!!!

Bruce Miller said...

Thanks, anon. I've edited the post to include Sara and Wendy on the list of staff members who were in attendance. Guess with so many people there I can't keep track of everyone. I didn't see them. They have my apologies. Thanks for the correction.

Frank Creasy said...

Scott is something of a night owl by nature, but it sounds as if the glow of this opening gave him (and everyone at Barksdale) good reason to stay up longer and bask in the warmth of what must have been a terrific opening.

Another commitment kept me from attending the opening, but I will be there to enjoy this lovely production before the run ends. Congrats Scott, Bruce, Phil and to your cast and crew for what sounds like the start of a great run!