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Star City concludes free theatre series with ‘Bridal Party,’ new season begins January 26

Star City Playhouse presented the final free lunchtime play of the winter season, “Bridal Party,” with a cast of eight (from left): Diane Heard, Jane Gabrielle, Wendy Newman, Kathy Fisher, Chrissy Rhemy, Mary Lynn Rose, Nancy Lawrence, and Heather Moore.
Mary Lynn Rose (center) played the role of much-married Ruby Mae Ferris, planning a fifth wedding with bridal shop owner Annie Hankins (Diane Heard) and wedding consultant Edmonia Harper (Jane Gabrielle).

Star City Playhouse hosted the final free lunchtime one-act play for the winter season with a production of “Bridal Party” on January 11. It was the final play in a three-play series which began in December, presented free of charge to the public.

Marlow and Karon Semones Ferguson are the owners of the Star City theatre.

“Bridal Party” was written by resident playwright Karon Ferguson, one of two one-act plays she has written, along with several full-length plays and adaptations in a 25-year career. Her adaptation of “The Bargain” from Charles Dickens will be the featured production to close out the 2018 season in November and December.

Ferguson said she has “loved to tell stories” her entire life and finds her inspiration in everyday situations. She goes on to say that her characters tell her their stories— she is just the scribe.

She calls “Bridal Party” a light comedy that nonetheless deals with some weighty and controversial topics, including abortion, gay marriage, divorce, multiple marriages, weddings during wartime, and pregnant brides. Both funny and poignant, the performance kept the audience charmed and chuckling.

Ferguson was inspired to write the play when she received a bountiful donation of about 400 bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses and was wondering how to make the best use of them.

“Bridal Party” tells the story of a day in the life of shop owner Annie Hankins and wedding planner Edmonia Harper at the “Twice Upon a Time Bridal Shop” which sells used wedding gowns. They set their record in business over the years at 300 weddings with 78 divorces.

Diane Heard, who is becoming increasingly familiar to Vinton audiences with her work in several productions this past season, portrayed Hankins. Jane Gabrielle, who has also appeared with Star City in the Vinton location, took the role of Harper.

The first bride to arrive at the shop searching for a beautiful but bargain-rate gown was pregnant teen Jessie Thurman. She was accompanied by her ultra-religious mother, Myrtle, appalled by the pregnancy and by the quickly arranged marriage of her daughter, who is giddily in love. Wendy Newman played the part of Jessie with Kathy Fisher as her outraged mother. The encouraging advice from Hankins and Harper was that “one mistake doesn’t define your whole life.”

Next up was Ruby Mae Ferris (played by Mary Lynn Rose), the “Always Bride,” preparing for her fifth wedding, just announced and scheduled within the week. She feels little concern over scandalized talk about her numerous marriages as “it gives meaning and purpose to the lives of the gossips.”

The play also dealt with a call from a military bride. Elsie Wimmer was forced to cancel her wedding due to the death of her fiancé as the result of a car bomb in the Middle East, leading to the planning of a funeral instead of a wedding.

Chrissy Rhemy portrayed Haley Bower, a highly organized all-business bride with no marriage prospects, but ready with the details should the opportunity arise. She has compiled a list of traits she is looking for in a husband and stops by the shop regularly to update what she believes is her destined ceremony and reception. She has bought a house and decorated a nursery in anticipation. The advice from Hankins and Harper in this case is that they have “never known a soul who could plan out a life perfectly.”

 

Upper crust Maybelle Claybrook, played by Heather Moore, sneaks into the shop looking for a gown to elope with her fiancé in order to avoid her family’s meddling. Her interfering mother, who has been little involved with her life up to this point, was outraged by thoughts of an elopement to a man she considers to be inappropriate— years older and employed as a sports bar bartender. Nancy Lawrence played the part of the mother, who didn’t want to be a mother at all, but “abortion was illegal back then.”

Hankins and Harper rushed this bride to a chapel for an “instant wedding” before her family could stop the ceremony.

The lunchtime plays were presented by Star City in December and January at no charge with the hopes of attracting audiences for their full productions in the upcoming season. Actors in the productions volunteered their time and talents. During the productions, they read from scripts, which quickly became almost non-existent to the audience.

The “lunch” in “lunchtime theatre” for each of the three performances at Star City was catered by Chef Drew Buzik of Succotash, with much acclaim.

The formal 2018 season opens on January 26 with the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Gin Game” by Donald Colburn.

Performances are on Fridays at 7 p.m. with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. through February 11.

The theatre is located at 107 South Pollard Street in downtown Vinton across from the former Vinton Motors. There is parking in that lot, behind the theatre, at the Vinton Farmers’ Market, at Vinton Baptist, and throughout the downtown area.

Tickets are $12 general admission, and $8 for seniors and students. Call 366-1446 for reservations.

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