FRIDAY 5 (+1) on Thursday: DADDY'S DYIN'...WHO'S GOT THE WILL's Dunlop, Lewis and Speir
Those wacky denizens of Lowake, Texas - members of the Turnover clan - return to the stage tonight in search of their daddy's last will and testament in The Larry Keeton Theatre's production of Del Shore's chicken-fried comedy Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will? Running through May 6, the raucous, downhome comedy features a cast of Nashville favorites including Tonya Pewitt, Memory Strong-Smith, Natalie Royal Herb, Jonathan Hunter, Benny Jones, Linda Speir, Drew Dunlop and Natalie Lewis.
Dunlop, Speir and Lewis offer up some homespun answers to our usual Friday 5 (+1) queries, giving us some insight into their processes and explaining why you should come see the show. Enjoy, gentle readers...then call and make reservations post-haste. Time, as they say, is a-wasting.
Drew Dunlop (Buford Turnover aka "Daddy")
What was your first taste of "live, onstage" theater? Besides a few school plays, I had the great fortune of having You Can't Take it With You with Jason Robards and James Coco as my first live theater experience. Unfortunately, James Coco was out that night, but seeing Robards perform more than made up for it. Seeing Coco's understudy perform was also thought provoking. I remembered thinking that if someone that talented is only the backup actor, it must be a tough field of work.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I most enjoy talking with my castmates about ourselves and small talk. I've been blessed to have all my casts become like family to me, and it is great being with them out of character.
What is your favorite "the show must go on" moment? I wrote a play called I'm Jimmy Casanova to be performed in the ACT 1 One Act Wednesdays series. I was short of actors for auditions, but just barely cast with one of the actors having to take two parts. We got a great response to the play on opening night and I was looking forward to closing out strong. Then one of the actors said that he had missed the memo on there being two performances, and there was no one else available to fill in for him. The only solution was for me to step in and do the role. Thankfully I wrote it, so the lines came easy and we closed the show without a hiccup.
Who is your theatrical crush? There are plenty of theatre actresses who have caught my eye, and several I probably would enjoy dating. But I would push them aside to spend a day with Nathan Lane. I saw him on Inside The Actors Studio some years ago and feel like he would be fascinating to talk to. And hilarious.
What is your dream role? The immediate answer is Jean Valjean in Les Mis. However, I think it would be great to be cast in an emotionally challenging major role in an original play. Being the actor who makes the first choices for the way the character is played has to be a difficult and rewarding experience.
Why should people come see Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will? Seeing a Yankee like me try to talk in a Texas accent without breaking my tongue is entertaining enough. But the story has a strong emotional pull in ways that nearly everyone will connect with and enjoy. Everyone else on the cast is great. I'll let you come and tell me how well I'm doing.
Linda Speir ("Mama" Wheelis)
What was your first taste of "live, onstage" theater? My first taste of live, onstage theatre was seeing my older sister in a high school production. She played the bearded lady!! I can't remember the name of the play. My own personal taste was in college where I played Lorraine, the has been actress, in a production of The Man Who Came to Dinner.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? My favorite pre-show ritual is just getting calm and focused and saying a prayer.
What is your favorite "the show must go on" moment? My favorite "the show must go on" moment was years ago at Actors' Playhouse. The show was Lie of the Mind and I played Jake's mother, Lorraine. In one scene I was lying in bed, talking to my stage daughter about the evils of men. Suddenly a man stood up in the back of this very, tiny theatre and began to shout obscenities at me! It was obvious he was very drunk. He began to advance toward the stage and continued to shout obscenities. I looked at my scene partner and she at me and we continued with the dialogue as he continued to advance and shout. Fortunately someone grabbed him and escorted him out. He was within inches of the bed. We never acknowledged him in any way but continued with the scene without missing a beat!
Who is your theatrical crush? I have no theatrical crush on anyone but I do admire many of our fine actors in Nashville.
What is your dream role? My dream role is that of Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. I stepped into the role once for Maryanne Clark when she became ill. The second weekend of the show was cancelled due to snow and I became ill and had to be hospitalized the last weekend of the show. So anyone who wants to direct this beautiful show and cast me as Carrie, please let me know!
Why should people come see Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will? Those of you who love a show that has it all, humor, tears, anger, and more should come see Daddy's Dying....Whose Got the Will. It is about a dysfunctional family that manages to function and in the midst of it all finds that no matter what, family is family.
Natalie Lewis (Marlene Turnover)
What was your first taste of "live, onstage" theater? Our class took a field trip to see Rapunzel at Nashville Children's Theater when I was in Kindergarten. I came home, floating on cloud nine and told my mom that that's what I wanted to do forever! At the time, I think I just wanted to be Rapunzel, but once my mom explained to me that it was someone pretending...I knew that this was a calling that I had to follow. My first taste of Broadway was more recently when I got to see Book of Mormon at TPAC last year. It's sad that it took me that long, I know.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I don't think I really have a pre-show ritual. Does not eating anything beforehand count? I still get nervous jitters before every show and I find that not eating helps keep my focus, even if I'm slightly bitchier because I'm starving.
What is your favorite "the show must go on" moment? I was playing the role of Mary during a run of It's a Wonderful Life (one of my favorite roles so far), the young man playing Petey was nowhere to be found when the lights came up. I had no idea he was missing until I didn't see him come down the stairs to begin his lines. I looked up into ZuZu's room to see if he was there and she just shrugged her shoulders. I probably looked like a deer in the headlights at that point. The guy playing George also realizing that something was amiss just starts yelling "Where's Petey?" I stammered out something akin to my lines and Petey eventually wandered onto the stage later in the scene, but there's nothing like missed entrances to keep you on your toes!
Who is your theatrical crush? Santino Fontana. Although to be fair, I haven't actually seen him in any of his theater roles...I only discovered him from "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and then found out what a talented guy he is.
What is your dream role? It's hard to choose just one. Corie in Barefoot in the Park, Velma Kelly in Chicago, Baroness Schrader in The Sound of Music, but mostly I think I'd like to play Emily in Our Town. I read the play in high school and it affected me deeply. I'm a little too old to play high school now, but I do hope to perform in that show eventually as any of the characters.
Why should people come see Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will? This show is funny and sweet from start to finish. The characters are folks that you recognize from your own life and family stories. You'll find yourself laughing and weeping...sometimes all at once. When I'm not on stage, I can't stop watching the rehearsals and getting swept up...when I should be studying my lines, if that tells you anything! You'll love it and you'll tell all your friends about it,
Veteran Nashville actress Linda Speir will make her Larry Keeton Theatre debut as the matriarch in Del Shores' Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will, the next production on the stage of the Donelson theater, running April 20-May 6.
The deep-fried, Lone Star State-infused comedy is written by playwright, screenwriter and director Del Shores, who is also known for Sordid Lives, Cheatin', Daughters of the Lone Star State, Southern Baptist Sissies and The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife.
Cast as Mama Wheelis, Speir leads a cast that includes Keeton Theatre favorite Tonya Pewitt as Sara Lee Turnover, Memory Strong-Smith as Lurlene Turnover Rogers, Natalie Royal as Evalita Turnover, Jonathan Hunter as Harmony Rhodes, Benny Jones as Orville Turnover, Drew Dunlop as Buford "Daddy" Turnover and Natalie Lewis as Marlene Turnover. Pewitt, Strong-Smith and Royal are making their returns to the Keeton stage after earlier roles, while Hunter, Jones, Dunlop and Lewis join Speir in making their first appearances at the venue.
The Hollywood Reporter says: "Set in a small Texas town in anytime, U.S.A., Daddy's Dyin' concerns the reunion of a family gathered to await the imminent death of their patriarch, who has recently suffered a physically as well as mentally disabling stroke. In essence, however, it is not the story of the impending demise of the father or of the drafting of his will, but of a rebirth of the spirit of the family unit. Without becoming ponderous, losing a sense of humor or pandering to timeworn cliches about Texans or Texas drawls, the story shares many elements of a good summer novel: it's a fast, delicious, easy read with funny moments, tense moments, touching moments, and characters you care about."
Jeffrey Ellis, who made his Keeton Theatre directorial debut in 2016 with Beth Henley's southern gothic comedy The Miss Firecracker Contest, will once again take the helm of the production. His revival of the classic Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady just closed after a record-setting run at the theater and followed Cabaret, which he co-directed with company artistic director Jamie London. The two will re-team for the season finale production of Disney's Mary Poppins.
Jamie Robbins London, artistic director for the Senior Center for the Arts at Fifty Forward Donelson Station, is the producer of Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?
Austin Jeffrey Smith, who previously has appeared in The Music Man, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie Get Your Gun, Cabaret and My Fair Lady, will take on the role of production stage manager for Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will. Ashley Wolfe is costumer for the production, set in 1986 Lowake, Texas. Set design is by Jim Manning, with properties by Suzanne Spooner-Faulk, lighting design by Coleton Wood and Stella London, and sound design by Allan Stokes.
Tickets for Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will are now on sale at www.thelarrykeetontheatre.org or by calling (615) 883-8375.
Dinner seating begins at 5:45 p.m. with curtain at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and seating at 12:45 p.m. for luncheon with curtain at 2 p.m. for Sunday matinees. Tickets for dinner and show are $30 for adults and $20 for children under 12; for show only tickets are $25 for and $15 for children under 12. There is a special show-only price of $18 per adult for Thursday night shows. Salmon upgrade for dinner is available for $7. Group rates for parties of 15 or more are also available. Call (615) 883-8375 for information and reservations.