Weakley Playhouse Concludes Spring Production

County Theater Students Play On
Posted on 05/11/2021
This is the image for the news article titled County Theater Students Play On“Do you have any notion how hard it is to do a play!?!”

The question is asked by the very frustrated community theater director Gerry of first-time and thoroughly confused playwright Phyllis as their play within a play seems destined for disaster.

If the response to that query were based on an audience member’s perspective of the Weakley Playhouse’s weekend run of “Play On!” the answer might be, “Sure seems easy to you.”

The growth and confidence of the countywide drama program for Weakley County Schools was evident throughout the performance that included smoothly delivered laugh lines, slapstick shenanigans, and having to intentionally be bad at what they were so obviously good at – acting.

Rick Abbott’s Play On! is a comedy based on a community theater hoping to save money. By using a new and local writer, they save on script costs. But her frequent script changes along with actors’ egos and an over-taxed stage crew combine to bring hilarious moments to Westview’s theater.

Martin Kane directed this fourth outing for the fledgling theater group that opens up crew and acting parts to all the area high schools. While comedy can be risky in the hands of novices, this company relied on a mix of familiar and new faces to deftly deliver screwball antics, melodramatic takes, and plenty of laughs.

Katie Mantooth, co-president of Weakley Arts Can, a local school arts advocacy group, wrote her assessment on Facebook after opening night, “This was so good!,” she exclaimed. “I laughed so hard. Coming out of a crazy school year, you don’t want to miss this opportunity to be entertained and laugh.”

The “crazy school year” she mentions meant COVID-19 precautions forced the fall production of The Crucible online. But Kane found a way to both capture the drama on camera and ticket the crowd.

However, based on enthusiasm expressed backstage, onstage and from the crowd, both the players and audience seemed ready to return to in-person performances. With crowds growing since Kane launched Weakley Playhouse in the fall of 2019, the actors got to enjoy rousing applause at the close of each show.

For some, this performance will be their last. Seniors Jonathon Vandergriff, James McGregor and Zachary Whiteman reflected on their final production.
Vandergriff, who has been helping with set construction since his sophomore year, shared the sentiments of all the soon-to-be graduates, “Being able to come and basically have another family and have people there for me has meant a lot.”

McGregor underscored the importance of finding like-minded theater enthusiasts, “It’s really been cool to get together with people who like to do this kind of stuff, getting to perform with people who like to do plays.
While COVID precautions might have been perceived as a barrier, McGregor only pointed to time management as the challenge he had to overcome.

Wearing masks, he said, “was different but you get used to it.” The play was presented without masks but with distancing apparent.

Whiteman, who like McGregor is also part of the Westview band program, said of the newfound family he developed as a result of this theater experience, “It’s given me a lot of opportunities to express myself in front of others so that people know this is the real me; this is how I felt. And it’s helped me deal with a lot of things in life, a lot of low moments, a lot of high moments; it’s really helped.”

As for getting the opportunity to return to live performances, he added, “It proves we can get back to normal and it’s not always going to be this way. Life still goes on, no matter what happens.”

Joining Vandergriff as part of the crew were Abby Arredondo Ellie Brewer, Gloria Hogan, Taylor Longacre, Gabrielle Price, Ellie Blackburn, Bryson Boyd, Grey Claiborne, Lydia Thorsen, Dom White, Amelia Crews, Emma Crews, Zanda Tipton, Hannah Harrell, Emily Kelley, Lizzie Ostenson, Katelin Rutledge, Jeremiah Britt, Betsy Mantooth, Zowie Tipton, and Zach Whiteman.

On stage with McGregor and Whiteman were Gloria Hogan, Betsy Mantooth, Emily Kelley, Zanda Tipton, Nathan Reese, Abbey Buchanan, Atlantis Taylor and Katelin Rutledge. Britt also stepped in as understudy during one performance.

Kane expressed thanks to sponsors Marvin Downing, BR Supply, Donaldson Brothers Rental, Fuller Partners, Dragon Wings Antiques, Servall, and Edmund and Jennifer Long. To help sponsor future shows, visit weakleyplays.com/advertise.

He also noted that, in July, the Weakley Playhouse will present their first summer show, Anne of Green Gables. Auditions are open to current 7th-12th graders and are underway.

cast
Cast members posing in character (top left to right): Taylor Longacre, Nathan Reese, Gloria Hogan; (middle) Atlantis Taylor; (bottom left to right) Emily Kelley, Zachary Whiteman; Martin Kane, director

cast and crew
Crew from left to right: Jonathon Vandergriff, Jeremiah Britt, Zachary Whiteman, Lizzie Ostenson, Taylor Longacre, (on couch) Ellie Blackburn, Betsy Mantooth, Katelin Rutledge , Zanda Tipton, (on floor) Gabrielle Price, Dom White, Atlantis Taylor, Lydia Thorsen. Cast members posing in character: Zanda Tipton, Atlantis Taylor, Abbey Buchanan, Betsy Mantooth, Jeremiah Britt, James McGregor