FSLT comedy looks at heartbreak, love, forgiveness

FSLT comedy looks at heartbreak, love, forgiveness

“We were off to a good start with production preparation for this show back in March 2020,” remembers Lora Rice, director of “A Southern Exposure” at Fort Smith Little Theatre. “Casting was done, set design was in progress, props were being gathered, blocking was in the works — then the world as we knew it shut down.

“Pandemic circumstances forced us to tear down our set, pack up our belongings, and store them away for the glorious day when the theater could once again be filled with the sounds of laughter, lines, music and power tools,” she says.

That day has come, with the Southern comedy reminiscent of “Steel Magnolias” scheduled to open March 31. “Fortunately,” Rice adds, “my cast and crew were all able to pick right up where we left off.”

That’s in the middle of a “touching, well-written story [that’s] laugh-out-loud funny,” she describes. “It’s about a family and their interactions, and it contains a range of emotions – laughter, heartbreak, anger, love and forgiveness.”

Raised in Kentucky by her grandmother Hattie (Cindy Clark) and two eccentric aunts, Ida Mae (Nancy Blochberger) and Mattie (Mary Beth McAlvain), Callie (Lindsay Vickery) stuns her family by moving to New York to live with her new boyfriend in the script by Kelley Kingston-Barnhart. Her dreams are soon dashed, of course, then just as her world starts to brighten, she is forced to return home — where she and Hattie discover the “fiercest kind of love.”

“Like my character, I’m a young Southern woman who was fortunate to have a grandmother’s deep and unique type of love. It is a joy to bring Callie Belle to life,” Vickery says. “This is the first show I’ve participated in since covid hit. This is also the first cast of only four people that I have been in, and I am loving the intimacy of being in such a small cast and sharing the stage with this group of older, experienced actresses.”

Clark says she too feels a special relationship with her character.

“I had a wonderful relationship with my mother and grandmother, both now deceased. That helps me truly appreciate the bond between my character, Hattie, and her granddaughter, Callie. They squabble nonstop but truly love each other. I can often hear my mother’s voice when reciting Hattie’s lines, and sometimes it seems like Hattie and my mother were one and the same.”

“‘A Southern Exposure’ reminds me some of ‘Steel Magnolias’ — which was my first FSLT production in 1991 — because it features strong Southern women, love, loss, laughter, and tears,” says Blochberger. “When I first read the script, I knew I wanted to audition for the role of Aunt Ida Mae — partly because her lines made me laugh, but mostly because we have a lot in common. Ida Mae is rarely idle; she’s sewing, drying dishes, clipping coupons, or running errands. She’s opinionated and very matter of fact, but underneath I think she cares deeply.”

“I love strong Southern women characters and was especially drawn to the role of Maddie,” puts in McAlvain. “Maddie is the oldest sister. She is an eternal optimist and very naive. In those ways I can relate to her. She is also dealing with dementia.

“It would be easy to dismiss her character as simply comic relief, but she is is strong character in her own way. I’ve been waiting over two years to bring her story to life!”

“While this is an all-female cast, I am sure that both men and women will enjoy this show and relate to these characters,” Blochberger adds. “Everyone has a mother, grandmother or aunt who is like at least one of these characters. [And] while I don’t think the script is intended to deliver a specific lesson, I do think it reminds us of the value of friends, family and being there for one another.”



‘A Southern Exposure’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. March 31-April 2; 2 p.m. April 3; again April 6-9

WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre

COST — $20 for opening night; $12 for all other performances

INFO — fslt.org or 783-2966 (Ext. 2)

FYI — Bring a Buddy free ticket information is available at fslt.org.

Categories: Theater