No Place To Hide

No Place To Hide

‘Night Mother’ a journey through darkness and light


When Marsha Norman’s play “’Night Mother” hit the stage in 1983, it quickly became a quiet sensation. Starring a then-unknown Kathy Bates in the role of Jessie, it would ultimately earn the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony nomination for Best Play.

“We saw a production of it back in 1983 when we were in New York,” says Smokehouse Players co-founder Terry Vaughan, who is playing Thelma in the company’s production. “We walked in not knowing what to expect and walked out devastated. It stayed with me for a really long time, and I always wanted to be involved in it in some way.”

The play’s concept is simple, if heart-rending: Thelma and her daughter, Jessie, share a home in the rural South. Jessie takes good care of her mother, who is getting on in age, but her own emotional health has been faltering for some time, and she’s come to a devastating decision: She intends to kill herself that very evening.

“I’m just not having a very good time, and I don’t have any reason to think it’ll get anything but worse,” Jessie says, only moments into the play.

Smokehouse Players performs the show in its intimate space in the old Ozark Mountain Smokehouse building on the south side of Fayetteville. The close quarters mean that the audience has an up-close-and-personal view as the play unfolds in front of them.

“What we love about the space is that we do bare bones theater — we strip away anything that isn’t totally necessary, and we ask the audience to fire up their imagination and join us on the ride,” says Vaughan. “The space is so intimate, and I think that adds to the power of what we’re doing. It makes the audience feel as though they’re in our living room, listening to these people talk. We really enjoy that, even if it’s a little scary for this show, because we have to get so emotional.”

Jules Taylor directs, and Vaughan says that was a very deliberate choice.

“She’s a bright light — where I see dark, Jules sees light,” explains Vaughan. “She sees the humor, everything in the script that lifts it up, and it’s important to have that perspective on a journey like this.”

“As the director, I see how dark it is and how dark it could go,” says Taylor. “I know, as an audience member, to sit there and watch nothing but two people screaming and yelling would be very hard, so I did consciously look for [brighter moments]. But it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, with phenomenal writing, so it just jumps out at you — you can’t help but see it. And it definitely makes it more like real life, because not everything is heavy in life.”

“It makes you feel like you’re at somebody’s house for real,” says Amy Eversole, who plays Jessie. “It’s really how a mother and daughter would interact with each other. There would be some laughs, some inside jokes, things like that, instead of this just constant emotional whirlwind.”

Musician Jori Costello will be performing a preshow concert each evening, starting at 6:45 p.m.

“We really chose music for her to do in her specific way to help set the tone for the show,” says Taylor. “Jori is stellar, and an opportunity to get to see her do a solo show is awesome.”

Frank Sharp, who owns the building where Smokehouse Players perform, allows the theater company to use the facilities for free, and, in turn, the theater company uses some of the receipts from the door to benefit a local nonprofit organization. Though admission to the show is free, the company gratefully accepts donations, and all donations received from the opening night performance will benefit Magdalene Serenity House, an organization that supports women who have experienced trauma, sexual exploitation, addiction and incarceration. Vaughan said Thursday’s show even has an anonymous donor who will match all funds collected that night.

“We’re trying to get the word out to the community to stand up and help this organization,” says Vaughan. “This [matching donor] is anonymous, but they don’t have to be, and it would be great for an individual or organization, because we could talk about them in our publicity for the show. This is a great way to make these small events fruitful.”



‘‘Night Mother’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-16

WHERE — Smokehouse Players, 1725 S. Smokehouse Trail, Fayetteville

COST — Free; donations accepted


Categories: Theater