Southern Nights

Entertainment abounds this month as two shows will open across the area—one a comedic and dramatic theatrical depiction of the lives of five Southern women, and the other a musical revue of country and gospel classic tunes.

Pictured left to right: Karen Fairfield, Dawn Worden, Candace Hobbs, Sherrill Jolly, and Carolyn Stringer star in Brunswick Little Theatre’s presentation of ‘The Dixie Swim Club’ which will open at Playhouse 211 on Friday, March 8th. Photo by Thom Clemmons.

Pictured left to right: Karen Fairfield, Dawn Worden, Candace Hobbs, Sherrill Jolly, and Carolyn Stringer star in Brunswick Little Theatre’s presentation of ‘The Dixie Swim Club’ which will open at Playhouse 211 on Friday, March 8th. Photo by Thom Clemmons.

“The Dixie Swim Club”
March 8-10, 15-17
Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m. • Sun., 3 p.m.
Playhouse 211
4320-100 Southport-Supply Rd.
(910) 200-7785
$6-17 • www.playhouse211.com

Those who look back on “Now and Then” or “Steel Magnolias” with heartfelt nostalgia may enjoy the Southern dramatic comedy “The Dixie Swim Club,” from playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, presented by Brunswick Little Theatre.

Professionals with many accolades, Jones was a writer for the Whoopie Goldberg film “Kingdom Come” (an adaptation of Jones’ off-Broadway show “Dearly Departed”), while Wooten garnered a Writers Guild of America award as a writer and producer for “The Golden Girls.” Hope has penned for most major television networks and was the casting director for two renowned theatres and ABC Television.

Set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, their Southern comedy “The Dixie Swim Club” follows five women on the journey of their later years in life. Once all mates on their college swim team, the best friends rendezvous at the same beach house each August, escaping the rigors of their day-to-day worlds back home.

Jeri Neal, the people-pleasing sweetheart, will be played by Karen Fairfield in the upcoming Brunswick Little Theatre production. Actress Carolyn Stringer will tackle the role of Sheree, the spirited, organized group leader with a seemingly perfect life. Lexie—spoiled, brash, and steadfast in her desire to remain youthfully gorgeous—will be performed by Dawn Worden. Candace Hobbs will take on Dinah, an irreverent lawyer obssessed with her courtroom career, while Sherrill Jolly will round out the players as the bitter and pessimistic Vernadette.

“I couldn’t ask for a better cast,” director George Shafer shares. “They not only fit the roles beautifully—they are enthusiastic and hard working. A very strong sense of ensemble is developing.”

That budding camaraderie will come in handy as rehearsal continues to opening night. The show calls for both a plethora of comedic timing and intense, dramatic emotions. “The play interested me because female friendships are very different from male friendships,” he admits, “and I wanted to explore this idea.”

“The Dixie Swim Club” pops in on the friends four times throughout a span of 33 years, following them from ages 44 to 77. Through it all, the women must lean on each other more and more for support in surviving the usual suspects: men, sex, marriage, raising children, divorce, and aging.

“The time span provides an opportunity to reveal characters as they respond to different life events,” Shafer says. “Jeri Neal gets a calling to motherhood at age 44; Sheree confronts grandparenthood and the reality she is getting old; Dinah hits a wall in her career; Lexie realizes there’s more to life than a pretty face and big boobs; and Vernadette finally escapes the black cloud that has hovered over her life for decades.”

The play will be outfitted by a unit set representing the living room of the beach house, changing a tad as the next time frame opens. To accommodate, Shafer says the crew will shuffle accessories, like pillows, paintings, and tablecloths, from scene to scene.

The Jones Hope Wooten comedies are recognized for their Southern appeal and familiar characters and conflicts. “I like the mix of humor and sentimentality based in experiences most of us can identify with,” Shafer describes.

Likewise, the OBX setting is especially relevant for our coastal community. “There is much in the play for our audience to relate to, from the beach setting and approaching hurricane, to reminiscing about our youthful escapades and the challenges of aging.”

With a surprising twist in the second act, “Dixie Swim Club” should test the bonds of friendship and, hopefully, prove the enduring strength of such loving ties.

“Southport Southern Nights”
March 15-17 and 22-24
Fri.-Sat.: 7:30 p.m. • Sun.: 3 p.m.
Amuzu Theatre
$15 • Tickets available at:
Ricky Evans Art Gallery (211 N. Howe St.)
& Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce (4433 Long Beach Rd.)
Info: (910) 523-2552

Many people who turn their noses up at country music often mock, “The songs are all the same: he lost his woman, his truck, his house, his dog.” But country music is not a cookie cutter of the redneck lifestyle. Rather, these songs can speak to hearts broken, hearts bleeding, and hearts enthralled. Country music speaks right to the core of humanity.

Likewise, gospel music envelopes the core of humanity. All that is compassionate, benevolent, or seeking to be righteous and strong is gospel. And the musical qualities typically uniting each genre are expressive dynamics and impressive vocals. As much will be proved through March when Amuzu Theatre unveils “Southport Southern Nights,” a country and gospel revue.

“Both country music and gospel music connect with the soul by rousing emotions most people keep hidden deeply away from the outside world,” director Cathy Furpless suggests. “They give us the opportunity to indirectly express our thoughts and feelings through the extended joy and sorrow, love and hatred, happiness and frustration of the characters and situations of the music.”

The show will unleash songs from various decades. Classic country selections such as Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” will be performed—while the audience will even hear Miranda Lambert’s 2012 Country Music Awards Song of the Year, “Over You.”

Other favorites like John Denver’s “Country Roads,” Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen” will be shared, as well as Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” and Garth Brooks’ “The Dance.” “Scattered among the country selections are beautiful renditions of timeless gospel assortments, including everything from Johnny Cash’s ‘Daddy Sang Bass’ to Chris Tomlin’s medley of ‘Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone’ and Amy Grant’s ‘Arms of Love,’” Furpless divulges.

The Amuzu is planning a mixture of songs from the last 60 years with a cast of about 15. “Our cast is made up of local and uniquely diverse Brunswick County residents who bring to the Amuzu stage amazing voices and artistry on a host of musical instruments which they share with entertaining grace and eloquence,” the director details.

The majority of the pieces will be solo performances, while the audience will enjoy a few duets and ensemble numbers. However, all of the presentations will be live and accompanied by a band of local residents.

“Costuming will represent the typical country display of jeans, shirts, boots and hats contrasted by formal gowns and tuxedos to reflect the individualistic flavor of each musical selection,” Furpless continues. “Amy McCarthy creates memorable designs set against creative lighting schemes and subtle decoration to support the overall presentation. The staging remains simple changing the placement of the various members of the band and cast while simple choreography is developed to accent the differing themes of each number.”

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