10/9/2017 9:00:00 AM 'The play's the thing' - and it's in Jackson!
In one of the many hilarious scenes from the Jackson Community Theatre’s production of Four Weddings and an Elvis, (from the left) Sandy, the wedding chapel owner (played by Stephanie Sollars), looks on during a tense exchange among Fist (Jeremy Harley), Marvin (Doug Sharp), and Fiona (Cynthia Stiffler). The play, which the organizers and participants hope will be the first of many in Jackson, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Markay Cultural Arts Center in downtown Jackson. (Telegram Photos By Pete Wilson)
Pictured rehearsing a scene from Four Weddings and an Elvis are, from the left: Stan played by Todd Breyfogle, Bev played by Kay Howe and Sandy played by Stephanie Sollars.
For the first time in many, many years, the curtain will go up very soon on a community theatre production in Jackson. Four Weddings and an Elvis will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Markay Cultural Arts Center in downtown Jackson.
The live stage play will represent the first -- and hopefully not the last -- production from the Apple City Players' new Community Theatre group. Apple City Players is a local group of theatrical artists that organized earlier this year to form a local actors' performance company. Its Community Theatre group was later charged with attempting to organize and present a live stage play from scratch.
Although very few would-be thespians answered the initial call for auditions, secondary recruitment efforts bore fruit and the required 10-person cast was found. Meigs County resident and Jackson County native David Warner and his wife, Frances Gibser, who both have extensive community theatre experience, have accepted the responsibilities of directing, organizing and guiding the production.
From a business standpoint, the play has received the support of 22 local sponsors who were willing to provide financial donations in return for advertising space in a playbill. However, Gibser, who sold the sponsorships, realizes for the sponsors, it's more about supporting something positive in the community than it is the advertising/promotional value.
"I couldn't have sold these sponsorships to nicer people," she exclaimed. "We couldn't have done this without them."
She also noted the Southern Hills Arts Council officials have been very supportive of the project in allowing the Markay and its state-of-the-art auditorium to be used for the play.
Warner and Gibser also appreciate the ongoing support and assistance of Jackson County Broadcasting Co. General Manager Amanda Crabtree who was instrumental in recruiting some of the thespians and also in assisting with the playbill and other promotional efforts.
Practices have been taking place since August at the Grace United Methodist Church in Jackson, but rehearsals on the final week leading up to the actual performances will take place at the Markay.
The four-act play, described as a "comedy-PG," centers on the character of Sandy, a four-times-married, three-times-divorced owner of a wedding chapel in Las Vegas, who has seen her fair share of matrimonies. This hilarious and heart-warming live performance involves the most memorable Bev and Stan, who are getting married as revenge on their ex-spouses; Vanessa and Bryce, two arrogant, aging stars who are tying the knot as a publicity ploy; and Martin and Fiona, a gentle postal worker and a tough ex-con who couldn't be more in love. However, the final wedding is the most touching of all -- Sandy's fifth and final wedding to the love of her life. True to the title, Elvis is thrust into the middle of the complicated proceedings.
With this being Jackson County's first community-theatre venture, many of the actors are making their first appearance on the stage with the possible exception of being involved in high school plays. Sandy is being played by Stephanie Sollars, Bev by Kay Howe, Stan by Todd Breyfogle, John (also Elvis) by Shawn Collins, Vanessa by Mary Bracey, Bryce by Dave Warner, Lou by Justin Jackson, Fiona by Cynthia Stiffler, Marvin by Doug Sharp, and Fist by Jeremy Harley. Warner is also serving as director, David Long as the stage manager and Gibser as the production assistant.
Warner and Gibser marvel at the cast's aptitude and progress, and at this point, both are confident that the play will be an artistic success.
"These people should have been doing this for 30 years," Warner praised. "They have been just outstanding. They are on time, they never miss a practice and they follow instructions. If this comes out the way I think it will, it will be as good as about any professional performance you'll see."
Achieving an artistic success is only part of the longer-term goal of establishing a continuing community theatre presence in the Jackson area. Those involved in this maiden-voyage play are hoping for a good turnout of playgoers, not only for financial/business reasons, but also to set the foundation and serve as a springboard for more plays. If Four Weddings and an Elvis is well-received, it will hopefully spark an interest in future involvement, both for participants and customers.
"If this [community theatre] continues, it will only happen if the support of the community is there," Warner concluded.
Ticket prices are $15 each in advance and will cost $17 on the day of the performance. Senior citizens (ages 65 and older) will be admitted for a discounted price of $12 each.