'Auntie Mame' marks Little Theatre's 30 years
PAMELA GLINSKISEBRING - Highlands Little Theatre's first full season 30 years ago included a production of "Auntie Mame," directed by Pete Pollard, and starring the respected actress and theater benefactor, Janelou Buck.
Published: January 15, 2013
Published: January 15, 2013
This Wednesday evening, the iconic play about 9-year-old orphan Patrick Dennis' adventures after he goes to live with his carefree, flamboyant aunt will open with Tammie Pollard portraying Mame and Pete Pollard, once again, directing.
"I am one very fortunate director to have had the opportunity twice in a lifetime to direct two strong, talented, intelligent and incredibly beautiful women in this great American comedy," said Pollard.
"Mame" will run Wednesday through Jan. 27 with Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening performances at 7:30, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Because author Patrick Dennis (Edward Everett Tanner III) used his pseudonym name for the young character in his 1955 novel, many people assumed the story was true.
While the character of Mame was inspired by the author's eccentric aunt, Marion Tanner, a 1962 Life magazine article on Dennis confirmed the play's storyline was fictional.
Dennis' book, which takes its readers through the excesses of the Prohibition era and the hardships of life after the crash of 1929, was made into a theatrical adaptation by Robin Edwin Lee and Jerome Lawrence.
From outlandish cocktail parties filled with hilariously unusual quests to a harrowing side-saddle ride on a stallion called Lightening Rod, Mame always lived life to the fullest, much to the objection of Patrick's conservative trustee Dwight Babcock, portrayed skillfully by Art Harriman.
"When we were selecting the season, because it is the 30th anniversary season, we wanted to look back at some of the shows that audiences have enjoyed the most… "Auntie Mame" was one of them," said Pollard, who has had a fondness for the play since he saw the original Broadway musical adaptation starring Angela Lansbury as Mame and Bea Arthur as Vera in 1966.
Pollard has done well directing an ambitious production of the popular play. He explained that "Mame" has a large cast, several scene transitions and some tight costume changes.
He added that even though they are not doing the musical version, the technical aspect of the show includes 24 sound cues and effects in act one and nine in act two.
The cinematic on-screen opening credits and scene changes add a new dimension to the show, which is filled with elaborate period costumes, outrageous characters and uproarious situations that brought laughter and applause from the audience.
As a section of the credits thanking the members of the Tanglewood Art League for their help with props and scenery rolled, Loretta Dewitt, the group's founder, smiled and commented that it has always been one of her dreams to see her name on a big screen.
A special performance of "Mame" is scheduled for Jan. 22 as a fundraiser for the Tanglewood Residents Cancer Benefit.
The Little Theatre's president, Pollard, reminisced about the past 30 years filled with more than 150 plays, countless musical reviews, variety shows and special events and noted the significance of the building that was original known as the Lakeside Playhouse.
"The personality of a theater changes with each play performed within its four walls. It is a building eternally haunted by laughter, tears and applause," he said.
"There has been a lot of excitement for this show," said George Miller, the pastor of Emmanuel United Church of Christ whose first role acting at the Little Theatre is as Mame's husband, Georgia oilman Beauregard Jackson Picket Burnside.
"This has been a great experience… it's such a great cast," he added.
Suzanne Schilffarth is a crowd favorite with her witty portrayal of actress Vera Charles, Mame's devoted cohort and a regular at the wild parties that occur at 3 Beekman Place.
"This is a good ensemble with a lot of new people and a lot of actors coming back after taking a hiatus," said Harriman, who will be directing theatre's next production, "Sex Please We're Sixty."
Tickets for "Auntie Mame" are $20 for adults, $10 for children and may be purchased at the box office or online (with an additional convenience fee).
There will be an opening night "buy one adult ticket, get one half price" special for the Wednesday performance only.
For more information, visit: www.highlandslittletheatre.org or call 863-382-2525.