Sunday, October 30, 2005


A week from tonight, we’re breaking up a family. It’ll be the cast of our local production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which will have played its final weekend at Center On The Square, a non-profit dinner theatre right on the Searcy Courthouse Square.

Those who have never been in a theatrical production don’t quite understand what I’m talking about when I say “breaking up a family.” It’s an ad hoc family, sure but, nonetheless, we’ve become well-acquainted with the foibles and failings of our character, and the other characters and, just as importantly, gotten to know some people, in real life, we would probably never make the acquaintance of in the normal course of events.

Some of them are just as fascinating as the characters they portray on stage. Doubt that? Let me take you through some of them.

On the left, Nona Cheatham, as “Aunt Martha.” She’s retired from the Searcy School System. She was a choral director. In the middle, as wicked brother “Jonathan,” Bobby Pankey, a “Math Recovery” expert with the Newport School System, he does what we used to call “Remedial Math” with K-3 kids. On the right, dear old homicidal “Aunt Abby,” as portrayed by Brenda Fasulo. A Registered Nurse, she works as a housewife and mother, plus what she calls being a “professional volunteer.” As happened a year ago with a production of “The Nerd,” Brenda celebrated her birthday Friday night, with the cast singing the birthday song to her during Curtain Call.

Here’s a really fascinating guy, Dennis Bennett. You can call him “Colonel,” you can call him, “Doctor.” In the play, they call him “Dr. Harper,” father of the love interest, “Elaine,” and pastor of the local Episcopal Church. In real life, he’s a Presbyterian minister and pastor of Searcy’s First Presbyterian Church. As they say, he’s a man of many parts. A West Point graduate, he was a light Colonel in the Air Force when he decided he’d rather pastor for a living. He’s a Chaplain in the Army Reserve and I’ll bet a pretty good one, too. As many problems as I have with so-called “organized religion,” I’ll trust this man should I ever feel I need his professional services.

The part of the defrocked “Dr. Einstein,” a self-taught plastic surgeon, is being played by Sam Schultz. Well, to be proper, DOCTOR Sam Schultz, a staff doctor (pediatrics) at Arkansas Childrens Hospital. Sam’s played this role before – over 40 years ago, when he was still in high school. (And his wife is Dean of the School of Nursing at Harding University). They became grandparents again Friday.

The aforementioned love interest is provided by Beebe’s Stephanie Reynolds. A C.N.A. with the intent of going back to school for a degree in nursing and a specialty in pediatric nursing, she’s married to a Marine now doing his second tour in Iraq. While they were together out in California, she took the time to do a singing/dancing part in a local production of “Oklahoma.”

Brian Wolters is the “normal” member of the Brewster family, “Mortimer,” the nephew. Brian is a computer whiz (and maintains the Center On The Square website). I hadn’t realized he was in the production until I walked in and saw him; this is significant only because Brian and I worked together for several years at Alltel in Little Rock. It’s been about four years since we’d last seen each other. Nice reunion.

There are a lot more in the way of interesting people in this cast. Hahns Gaither (Left) is a student at Bradford High School making his first appearance on stage. David Goodman (Right) is a little difficult to understand at times, mainly because he’s from the northern part of London, England, and trying to lay an Irish accent on top of the one he already has. He’s a brand-new daddy.

And there’s Chip Braswell, who plays Teddy, and in real life is gathering the resources to open a B&B and a soda shop here in Searcy. And Bob Wilson, playing the superintendent of the nut house, Mr. Witherspoon. In real life, Bob is a retired teacher and, also, one of the Founding Volunteers of the Clinton Library.

And, in another typecasting move, let us not forget Nathan James, who plays a police lieutenant. In real life, he's an elected Constable. He's also an officer in the Searcy Police Department.

That’s our family. We’ll do a performance Friday night, another Saturday night, and cap it off with a Matinee on Sunday. Then, Sunday evening, we break up that family. It’s always both a relief and a sadness.

Just wanted to share it with you. In the meantime, if you catch this in time and want to see the show, call 501-368-0111, or go to .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

High School Plays - Harold Gene Sullivan

Thanks for the rundown on Arsenic and Old Lace being put on by the Center on the Square. It reminded me that we put on the play when I was in high school, it may have been our Junior play. Maybe someone else remembers. I don’t even remember who was in the play or what part I had. My only memory is that the fellow who was murdered and put in the windows seat really cracked up the person who went over to open the window seat and look at the body, there was the “body” laying there eating an apple. The “body” may have been Donald Johnson.

My how times have changed from our high school days. Cliff Haislip was the drama teacher and we were putting on a play where one of the characters was pregnant. However, saying she was pregnant was a no-no. After going around with the powers that be, the compromise was saying that she “didn’t know from nothing” or some such phrase.

I’m trying to remember what plays we put on. Out Town was one. Another was a Minstrel Show, blackface and all. My part in the show was getting sent out by the Interlocutor to get him a drink of water. I returned running back in and the Interlocutor asked me where his water was and I replied “ I saw a snake in that water and if I scared that snake half as much as he scared me, you don’t want a drink of that water!”

2:52 PM  

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