Finding community through comedy

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Picayune on Stage rehearsal space was packed with ladders, fake plants and actors in full costume patiently waiting to run their monologues on stage.

One actor donned a floral patterned summer dress, two were draped in matching floor length plum dresses and pearl necklaces and one woman wore a long black dress with a white apron and bonnet, as though she stepped out of colonial times.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

An unassuming black barstool was set at the far end of the stage, where the performers each took their turn speaking to an absent audience about moments that changed their character’s life.

The nine-person cast was rehearsing for “The Wild Women of Winedale,” a comedy about three sisters arriving at crossroad moments in their lives.

Picayune on Stage is a nonprofit that aims to develop more actors and actresses in the community, said Bonnie Hughes, who will play one of the leads, Fanny Wild Cantrelle, in the production.

The performance will be the second all woman production Picayune on Stage has offered this year. The nonprofit performed “Always a Bridesmaid”—another show by playwrights Jones, Hope and Wooten, in the spring.

“They’re just great shows for dinner theaters, because they’re entertaining, but there’s no bad language,” said Hughes.

Director Gladys Hughes reads through dozens of plays to find a suitable production for Picayune audiences. As a director, Hughes offers concise insights and knows how to create dramatic moments on stage, said Debbie Craig, who will play Willa Wild, another of the production’s leads.

“I’ve worked with her before, and it’s a joy because she knows us well. She knows theater well,” Craig said.

The production’s cast has worked together on several previous plays. Their familiarity with one another helps build trust between the performers, Bonnie Hughes said.

“You really want to have confidence in your other actors, and when you’re confident that they’re going to know their lines, that makes a big, big difference,” Hughes said.

The cast’s familiarity with one another also helps them anticipate each other’s timing, Craig said.

“It’s like being in a sitcom, when you kind of know the actor so well,” Craig said. “When one misses their cue, you can finish their sentence for them.”

The comedy explores the changes and challenges facing three sisters when one of them reaches her 60th birthday and touches on relatable thematic issues like letting go of the past and decluttering.

The performers bring different levels of theater experience, but together they have built a community. Craig said the nonprofit would like to see that community grow.

Trina Schelton, who plays the third lead Jef Wild, began acting when she joined Picayune on Stage. Schelton’s character is a wild widow in search of a new man. Schelton herself was devastated when she lost her husband, and joining Picayune on Stage gave her a new lease on life, she said.

“The ladies that are in this group are very, very talented. We all just have such a great connection. It’s almost like we’re family,” Schelton said.

For Bonnie Hughes, performing in shows her mother Gladys directs is a special experience.

“She’s always supportive to me and I’m supportive to her,” Hughes said.

The show will run Oct. 4 and 5, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 at the Hide-A-Way Lake restaurant Waters Edge. There will be a matinee performance Oct. 6 at 12 p.m. Tickets are $35, which includes tax, gratuity, dinner and the play.

For tickets or reservations, call Hughes at 601-799-1714 or Hide-A-Way Lake residents can contact the Hide-A-Way Lake office.