Thursday, September 28, 2006

Last Weekend, Grace and Glorie

Pat and I are finally comfortable with our lines and we've hit our stride. It is an absolute honor working with Pat. She is a true professional.

Take tonight, for example. After the show was over, Pat came to me and started laughing. She was so tickled she couldn't even speak. I started laughing too, and soon she was laughing so hard she had tears streaming down her face. She finally calmed down enough to regain speech.

During the make-up scene, I talk about Eve and the "forbidden fruit". I am supposed to say, "So she cost us our cushy berth in paradise." I apparently flubbed, instead saying "bushy curth". It never registered to me, and hopefully not to the audience, but Pat definitely heard me. For the rest of that piece she fought hard to keep from giggling on stage.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Performance, Grace and Glorie

For some reason tonight's performance really got to me. I've tried to be very careful about pushing myself emotionally. As an actress you want your performance to be believable, but submerging yourself in emotional depths can be detrimental to the real psyche.

During Act One's finale, I could feel myself starting to really breakdown. I was afraid that if I started crying I wouldn't be able to recover in enough time for the second act. As soon as the lights went down, I ran down the stairs, through the ballroom and into the kitchen, which also serves as our dressing room. I didn't speak to anyone, just stared out the window, trying to regain control. The volunteers and crew sensed not to speak to me. Even Pat left me alone so I could shake it off. It took me 10 minutes to talk myself back.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Before we began brush-up for Grace and Glorie April asked to speak with Pat, Mike, Elaine and me. She told us this year the North Carolina Theatre Conference Festival was going to be held in Charlotte. NCTC hosts a community theatre competition, and April feels our production is worthy of competition. Wow!

Now, bias aside (she is our director), April works for the Southeastern Theatre Conference. She has seen many a festival competition and has judged similar competitions. She knows what is needed and what the judges look for. April thinks we've got a great shot at winning the state title.

Exciting, huh? But herein lies the problem. The competition is November 17-18, the second weekend of Dracula. I formally accepted the role of Maid Wells yesterday.

So, Pat and I talked. She's competed before and walked away with a Best Actress award. Her concern wasn't the competition, but the impending birth of her grandchild. I hadn't invested any real time with Dracula and thought that Juan would probably understand my reason. In the end Pat and I decided to do it.

We're all going to the Queen City!

The Journal Review

Grace: Two-woman play captures beauty of friendship
By Melissa Hall
The Kernersville Little Theatre opened its 2006-07 season with a show about a friendship that develops between two women who are polar opposites.

Grace and Glorie is the story of Grace, a 90-year old woman who is dying of cancer and Gloria, her hospice worker who has moved to the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia from New York City.

Gloria volunteers at a hospital to help terminally ill people, and Grace is her third assignment.

Pat Shumate plays Grace, and Cheryl Ann Roberts plays Gloria. Both women are on stage together for most of the play. Grace and Glorie are the only two characters, and Shumate and Roberts carry the show very well.

The play is a blend of offbeat humor and sadness as the two women finally come to respect each other and the worlds they come from.

Much of the humor in the play comes from Grace trying to understand things that Gloria takes for granted. Gloria puts hair mousse in Grace's hair.

Grace asks her what it is and then replies, "If I lived another 50 years I would never have thought of putting meringue in my hair."

When Grace continually calls Gloria Glorie, the volunteer asks why she does that. Grace said that Glorie comes from an old hymn that her mother taught her.

There was almost a full house at the Korner's Folly Theater on opening night. The intimacy of the small theater, which seats about 60 people, is a good choice of venue for this play. The audience almost becomes part of the play.

Because it is a two-woman play, the dialogue is more conversational than most plays. Shumate and Roberts bring their characters to life without getting too sentimental.

Roberts and Shumate are veterans of the theater, and their experience shows. Roberts takes a character that could easily become a bore and keeps her fresh and funny.

Shumate's performance of an elderly mountain woman who has never been more than 50 miles from the farm where she lives is moving and funny without turning into a caricature.
• Melissa Hall can be reached at 996-6601 or

• Performances of Grace and Glorie are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sept. 28, 29, and 30 and 3 p.m. Sunday and Oct. 1. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for senior citizens and students. Reservations are required. Call 993-6556.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Auditions, Dracula

I drove out to Burlington tonight to audition for The Gallery Players' upcoming production of Dracula. Juan Fernandez is directing and I worked with him on The Curious Savage for KLT.

Tonight was actually the second night of auditions, and it became clear that many had auditioned last night and had been asked to return. Juan read me for the part I wanted, Lucy Seward, and I felt I did pretty well. That positive feeling lasted until Juan asked Kathy C. to read the same part. Kathy C. and I were in Jake's Women and I've seen her in several shows. She and I usually compete for roles, but tonight was no competition. She read Lucy perfectly. Juan read me another time for Lucy and then he read me for Maid Wells.

We took a break and Juan and I quickly caught up. After beating around the bush he asked me if I would consider taking another role. I winked and told him only if Kathy gets Lucy. He smiled an affirmation. I'll be Maid Wells, which will be a nice character role. And I get another chance to work with Juan and Kathy. I'm pleased.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Performance, Grace and Glorie

Most of the time actors and actresses rely on audience applause as an indication of performance appreciation. Most of the time complete silence is devastating to an actor or actress. Most of the time. But with a show like Grace and Glorie, non-traditional clues are the better indicator.

I have two very emotional pieces in the show. In the first piece, I'm recounting the car accident that killed Danny. I don't have much time to recover from that piece before Grace realizes Glorie's true intention. It is the gut-wrenching pleadings to God and Grace that leave Glorie, and me, raw and shaking.

In performing on the Folly stage, you cannot help but look into the audience. The Folly is a very intimate venue. Tonight I saw tears streaming, heard noses sniffling and felt the anxiety of futile searches for tissues. Some matched my (blank) stares while others looked away. The volume of emotional outpouring and their final understanding of Glorie's true desire left them breathless and speechless. They sat motionless as I exited the stage. There was no applause after Act One.

And I was pleased. Applause was not necessary. I knew they were right there with me, they were in the moment with me. As an actress, I had done my job.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Preview Night, Grace and Glorie

Our preview audience consisted of 24 invited guests. Among them, Allan and my mom, and Allyson and her daughter, Sara. If it's true that a bad dress rehearsal bodes well for opening night, we should be set for tomorrow!

Between the first and second scenes I have a very quick, full costume change. I go from a business suit and to a black dress and change jewelry. I change from medium heeled shoes to high heeled pumps. Since I don't have time to head to the dressing room, I make the change directly backstage. Tonight, as Mallorie headed out for prop changes, she threw back the curtain. I looked up and saw my mother and Allan. The guy sitting beside Allan was leaning over to get a better view - of me. There I stood in bra and panties, backlit in blue light.

The heels I wear in scene two are my own. I've worn them before; I'm very comfortable in heels. I've worn them in rehearsals all week and haven't had any problems. Not so tonight. As I headed over to the "kitchen", my heel got caught between the stage and the extension. I had to pause so I could work my shoe loose. I continued with the scene, stooping down to get a pot from underneath the "sink" and pumping water from the old fashioned water pump. I've no idea how it happened, but as I moved to place the pot of water on the stove, my heel got caught in the skirt around the sink. I ended up hopping across the stage to get out of the material!

And as if that wasn't bad enough, my heel got caught in one of the worn spots of the old rug and I tripped. Luckily Pat was prepared with an ad lib, "My heavens Glorie, perhaps you shouldn't wear heels when you visit me."

The remainder of the show went fairly well. After, my mom came up to me, barely able to speak for her tears. Allyson was a bit speechless too. Sara kept dabbing her eyes with a well-worn tissue.

Despite the obvious flaws, the audience stayed with us and thoroughly enjoyed the show...Grace and Glorie, not my stripping.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Final Tech, Grace and Glorie

Usually by tech week, I know my character and lines well enough that I don't have my nose in my script. I keep it handy in my bag, to write down director's notes or for quick refreshers. My philosophy was that if you didn't know your lines by tech week, you'd never know them. Well, my nose is still in my script. I am still spending hours reviewing lines. With just Pat and I on stage, I can't afford to go up on my lines. And what makes things more difficult is that some of our lines are very similar in each scene.

Take what happened tonight. I'm sitting on the footlocker having a conversation with Grace. Pat delivers her line and I respond appropriately. We continue the dialogue but something just doesn't feel right. I turn to Pat with a quizzical look on my face; a poor attempt to signal her that something is off. I finally realize that we've jumped from Act One to Act Two! It took some fancy talking to get us back on track. If there had been an audience, I don't think they would have noticed anything.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Cast of...

Bill Pfefferkorn is Norman Thayer, Jr.
Karen Robertson is Ethel Thayer
I am Chelsea Thayer Wayne
Scott Spencer is Bill Ray
Tyler Canada is Billy Ray
Craig Dixon is Charlie Martin

I am especially excited to be working with Karen. She was Mattie in LTWS's production of Walking Across Egypt and she was outstanding! Craig and I haven't worked together since WSTA's production of Sordid Lives. He and I play childhood sweethearts in this show, so that will be fun. And working with Scott is always interesting.