‘Game Of Groans’

‘Game Of Groans’

Gridiron finds humor in everything, even football



Every actor worries about the reception he’ll get from his audience.

But not every actor is portraying a living person who might well BE in the audience.

That’s just one of the things that makes the Northwest Arkansas Gridiron Show unique in this part of the state. Written and performed by local journalists, the annual collection of skits and songs — if you’re old enough, think “Laugh-In” — pokes fun at both sides of the political aisle and everyone from local councilmen to President Donald Trump.

“One year we did a ‘Magic Mike’ skit where actors portraying Gov. Beebe and some other politicians stripped on stage while the governor was in the audience,” remembers Antoinette Grajeda, a reporter/producer at KUAF 91.3FM and a 12-year Gridiron veteran. “We were nervous about his reaction, but the photos I saw showed him laughing, so I think he took it in stride!”

Katherine Shurlds, a retired journalist, has been involved with Gridiron for more than 40 years and says Hillary Clinton has been her iconic character, one she played from 2004 to 2017.

“I used to grouse (facetiously) about having to play her for another eight years,” she says. “Well, guess I don’t have to worry about that.”

Dave Edmark, also a veteran, says he’s never been worried about the audience.

“Nobody has ever rushed the stage, which would actually be possible with the steps leading from the audience straight to the stage at the Arkansas Public Theatre,” he jokes. He adds that he’s playing Bernie Sanders for the second or third time this year, “mainly because I can impersonate an agitated Brooklynite. I hope this isn’t typecasting.”

That’s the thing about Gridiron: Everybody involved has a quirky — and sometimes dark — sense of humor. Consider the topics of this year’s show, beginning with the title, “Game of Groans” — which, Shurlds assures, doen’t mean you have to know the TV show.

“There’s talk of impeachment — past and present — and a song about how it’s impossible,” expounds David Conrads, show publicist. “Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who left her post as President Trump’s press secretary this year, sings about her possible future pursuits. The candidates for the Democratic nomination are participating in yet another debate, but this time, they sing. Some Trump aides look into the purchase of Greenland, and Trump sings a love song to one of his buddies. For the show finale, Mary Poppins pops in at the White House” to sing “Stupid callous egotistic sexist racist POTUS.”

There will also be appearances by actors portraying former Cross Church Pastor Ronnie Floyd, returning from Nashville for one last sermon; UA Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek talks beer with a Razorback fan; and “Timely News Update” returns with its regular health commentator, Dr. Red Neck (played by Steve Voorhies). Of course, Gridiron wouldn’t be complete without Letitia Mae Stufflebeam, Ozarks philosopher, portrayed by former political reporter Brenda Blagg.

The biggest news at this year’s Gridiron, however, might just be happening at the piano. The show has a new musical director, Kristi Peterson, who takes over for the retiring Emily Kaitz. Peterson began playing bass in a professional combo when she was in seventh grade and has also worked as a vocal coach and church choir director.

“The skits are very clever, and there are some really talented and funny people in the show,” she enthuses. “I don’t want to give away any of the surprises, [so] let’s just say that this year (and this administration) offer a particularly rich array of things to target. And there’s a skit about Bella Vista that is one of my favorites.”

“Right now, we all need to laugh,” says Britt Graves, one of the producers. “The world is confusing and angry and sad, and with our show, for a few hours, you get to sit back and just see a lot of silly.”



Northwest Arkansas

Gridiron Show

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4-5; doors open at 6:45 p.m.

WHERE — Arkansas Public Theatre in Rogers

COST — $25; proceeds to scholarships

INFO — arkansaspublictheatre.org

FYI — UA professors Bret Schulte and Stephanie Schulte will emcee the show.

Categories: Theater