Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder

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Rehearsals ‘shine’ on

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Wow! Tuesday was a very exciting start for the yet-to-be-titled “Moonshine Project” by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder. “Moonshine Project”  follows Avery (played by Seth Andrew Bridges), a 20-year-old ne’re-do-well who makes his living running Moonshine to Atlanta. Avery’s skills at driving and outrunning the police lead him to racing cars professionally. His love of racing, as well as his love of the 19-year-old Dixie (played by Christina King) lead him into a world of fame and money that he never anticipated.

The cast is rounded out by John Manfredi and Larry Tobias who play Hank and Mutt respectively. Hank is a big-time local moonshine seller who takes Avery under his wing – but not necessarily for altruistic purposes.  Mutt is Hank’s business partner; Mutt is a curmudgeonly, quasi-genius mechanic who single-handedly changes Avery’s hunk-of-tin car into a racing machine.

Our director, Oz Scott, known for “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf” as well as dozens of other TV and film directing credits, had a very difficult journey into Montgomery. He was delayed and rerouted several times by the airlines and eventually ended up driving the hour and a half to Montgomery from Birmingham. He arrived triumphantly a few hours late and immediately jumped right into rehearsal.

As soon as Oz settled in, we began reading through the most recent version of the play. All of the actors received the new scripts right before the reading. In my opinion, this gave the first reading a very fresh feeling. Everyone in the room was truly discovering the play for the first time. Any ideas about “plot” or “character” that the actors had in their heads before rehearsal were completely open to change. I am very hesitant to divulge any more. The upcoming week will definitely be an exciting one for everyone involved in the “Moonshine Project.”

Who knows? We might even come up with the title…

-Morgan Auld (Production Assistant)

The Flag Maker of Market Street

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

The Flag Maker of Market Street by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder took place today. The story follows Mr. George Cowles, a Montgomery store owner that supplies the Confederacy. In the silence of the night, however, he holds secret Unionist meetings is the back room of the store.

Mr. Cowles is tasked with creating the first Confederate flag which he assigns to his slave, while also risking to expose his double life as a Unionist.

Mr. Cowles and Mae

Dennis McLernon and Libya Pugh in "The Flag Maker of Market Street"

The risk of exposing his double life only increases with the well-to-do southern women and their pride in the confederacy. Another hit by the award-winning author of Gee’s Bend and The Furniture of Home

Stories of the Soil: A Look inside SWP

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Step inside the Southern Writers’ Project with Producing Artistic Director, Geoffrey Sherman. Learn what’s happening next with the Festival of New Plays and why the Alabama Shakespeare Festival fosters new works through SWP.

A word from “Hottie Dottie”

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

It has been an amazing experience to work as an actor on “The Furniture of Home.” I have been a part of the project for several readings now over the past two years, so I have seen the play grow and change with Elyzabeth’s rewrites. I felt an immediate feeling of recognition with Dottie the first time I read her on the page. Elyzabeth captured her character beautifully. She reminded me of so many women I knew growing up in Bessemer. She is tough, sassy, smart, sexy and full of life. What I loved about her character was both her strength and her great capacity for hope in the face of total disaster. Dottie has a lot of challenges on her plate. She is raising her very precocious granddaughter, grieving for her husband and trying to pick up the pieces of both their shattered lives after the devastating tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. That is a big serving of hard times. But Dottie remains upbeat and humorous.

Part of the fun of working on a new play is the thrill of playing a character for the first time ever. So far I am the only Dottie, which is a great responsibility, but also great fun. I feel a tremendous effort to “get the character right” for the sake of the playwright. I want Elyzabeth’s character to live as she sees her in her imagination. But frankly Dottie is written so that there is little mistaking who she is and how she should be played. That is the proof of a good playwright. The character leaps off the page and says, “here I am, doggonit!”

I knew right away that Dottie needed cowboy boots and tight jeans. That was one of my first physical impulses. I am not sure how I knew that, but it just felt right. That physicality made me feel the “smart-ass” no nonsense quality of the character. Not to mention the “hottie” part of “hottie Dottie.”

The most important element to me as an actor is the relationships of my character to the other characters in the play. This is the best component of Elyzabeth’s writing. The pivotal relationship is between Kendall and Dottie. The two gals know each other so well they can push each other’s emotional buttons in a heartbeat. There is so much tension between them and they share daily joys and problems. Just as important are the two people in their lives who never appear in the play, Kendall’s mom, Lacy and Dottie’s dead husband, Curtis. These characters are vivid even though the audience never sees them. They tug at both women throughout the play and their presence (and absence) is key to the play. These characters are as alive in the play as Dottie and Kendall.

Then, of course, there is the relationship of Dottie and Butch. His character has gone through some amazing rewrites. The final version of Butch is much more sympathetic and has a point of view that while a bit mercenary is not purely evil. This Butch gives Dottie more dignity because she is no fool and to fall for a villainous man made her seem easily duped. The ultimate betrayal of Butch is now a real surprise and heartbreaking for Dottie. He actually means well, however, and strongly believes his ideas will save the community. Their conflict is now much more complex and the viewer can see both sides of the argument of what is best for the people of the bayou.

It is a joy to say the words written by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder. Her play is hilarious but so very human and complex. As an actor I love to play women who are both sympathetic and yet full of flaws. Afterall, aren’t we all as complicated as the characters in “The Furniture of Home?” That is why the play rings so true and reminds us all of ourselves and our loved ones.

And if I am now at an age where I am playing grandmothers, how cool is it to play a grandma named “Hottie Dottie?”

A Beginning…

Monday, February 9th, 2009

This whole blogging thing is new to me. I have wanted to blog for a number of years but since that desire first started to grow in me, my computer has died a number of times, the fear of how to start has crippled me more times than I would like to admit to and the demands at work have overwhelmed me. But as I prepare to go into rehearsal with a new Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder piece, I find myself wanting to make the attempt once again. This new play has reminded me of a time three years ago when Gee’s Bend was premiering at ASF. I’m not proud to admit this but it was around that time when I discovered a major character flaw in myself.

Let me back up a bit. You see I hate groupies. I always have. I’ve pictured them as brainless bimbos with chests much greater than their intellects or young girls who have painstakingly crafted an older version of themselves to parade around while their mothers stew at the kitchen table as the minutes past their curfew tick excruciatingly away. I know this is harsh but this had always been my experience with them. Years ago, to put food on the table when I was between directing gigs, I worked on rock ‘n roll crews. I would pass by these pathetic souls and despise how little these young women valued themselves. I would wonder where we went wrong with our daughters. What had we bra-burners done to our children? Imagine my horror the day I could no longer live in denial. The day when I realized I had become one of these objects of loathing. The day I became a groupie. Yes me. I had become one of these brainless pieces of fluff…a groupie. Now before you rush in to do an intervention or gently push me off a building because I am taking up valuable oxygen, let me explain.

Having recently moved to Alabama I found myself in a land where good barbeque reigns supreme, where people say good morning and not as a precursor to give me your purse and that watch your father gave you, and where women who some would label as suffering from dementia are celebrated and placed at the head of the dinner table. I also found myself working as the director of new play development for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Southern Writers’ Project. I was soon introduced to a vast array of southern writers. The power of their words was unsettling and their stories were populated with rich engaging characters. In short order I became a fan of these story tellers and the tales they spun. And then one day I stepped over the line from a fan to a groupie.

It actually happened when I was in Gee’s Bend, a small community in the bend of the Alabama River. That community has been praised for its artistry – their quilts are breathtaking. But it was in the home of Mary Lee Bendolph sharing good food and good song that I realized the people were the true treasure of the community. It was the souls of the people that were exceptional. It was then that it happened. I was hooked and not merely a fan but a groupie. And I was changed. These people and a deceptively simple story written by a southern story teller had changed me. This group of people and the love and joy they share so freely had touched me in a way I never imagined. I was reminded of the stories of Twain, Faulkner and Harper Lee and the rich, remarkable people who populated their stories. I once again remembered the beauty of language, the power of words and the delight of a story well told as only a southern storyteller can…and I must come clean and admit that, yes, I am a groupie.


Nancy Rominger, Associate Director, Alabama Shakespeare Festival

More information about Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder

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