HAINES CITY – Asked to describe for audiences at least one good reason why they should go to see the Haines City Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Hallelujah Girls,” director David Smith didn’t hesitate to respond.
They should go to the show opening on April 13 at the Clay Cut Centre “if they want to see a really funny show, and laugh, and forget their cares for a little while,” he said.
Besides, he said, the play by Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten is another reminder that Haines City Community Theatre knows exactly what their audience wants.
“That’s mainly what we do,” he said. “We don’t go into the old classics — those have been done to death. Our audience likes a good mystery thriller, and they also like the comedies.”
Haines City Community Theatre tried to deliver on the mystery last month with their production of “Being of Sound Mind,” and now they’ve got a new comedy that they hope will have audiences yelling “Hallelujah!” by the end. Written by the authors of “The Dixie Swim Club,” it involves some feisty females in Eden Falls, Georgia, who decide to open a day spa in an abandoned church.
“The play is about this one southern woman who has almost a mid-life crisis, so she buys this old church and she and her friends convert it into a day spa in a small Georgia town,” Smith said, adding that the zaniness is led by the outspoken Sugar Lee.
“She’s the protagonist, and the women all have to gang up on her,” Smith said. “We did ‘The Dixie Swim Club’ two years ago and it’s by the same authors, and we’ve found a lot of this stuff is really, really funny.”
The cast will include veteran Haines City Community Theatre players like Peggy T. Londeree, Dave Koons, Maggie Harris, Robb Moots, Jeanette Hughes, Renee Palmer, Lynda B. Allen, and Evelyn Avazier.
The production runs for six performances from April 13-22 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees.
Smith, who has done his share of acting, said he was happy to stay behind the scenes this time and direct the play.
“I like directing because it’s easier than memorizing lines when I’m on stage,” he said. “Actually, I had to step into our last show because an actor got sick and I had to go on stage a couple of nights covering for him.”
But as a veteran improvisational performer with the Winter Haven-based troop Comedy Buffet, Smith said he liked the challenge of directing a fast-paced comedy.
“My wife is a theater manager, and I started with Comedy Buffet, the improv group, and I run it now,” said Smith, who lives in Auburndale. “And getting involved with that kind of group led me into this theater.”
The key to directing a successful comedy, he said, is “the pacing, timing, and obviously having funny material. Having funny actors goes a long way, too, and just having a sense of humor myself. I think a lot of that goes to my improv training, where you say ‘Let’s do this, and see how it works.’ I like doing community theater because it’s that creative outlet. I would enjoy getting paid to act and direct, but that’s probably not going to happen.”
What’s also not clear is the Haines City Community Theatre’s future in the city, since they’re going to be losing the Clay Cut Centre at 801 Ledwith Ave., their long-time base, in the near future.
“We’re definitely not going to be in there much longer,” Smith said. “The city has given that back to the (Polk County) School Board, and the school board is going to renovate it and make it part of the Jenkins School, so we think we might have one more year at Clay Cut.”
Finding a new location won’t be easy, since as Smith noted, they’re a volunteer group, not a wealthy for-profit theater.
“We are looking for a place now,” he said. “We’ve been contacting people. We’re a community theater, we’re non-profit — we don’t have any money. We’re hoping we get a benefactor, someone who wouldn’t mind a tax break on it if they help us out. For now, the school board says it will be maybe two to three years before they start renovating the building, so we’re basically figuring next season might be our last year there.”
Ticket prices for the new show are $10, with a discount for groups of 20 or more. For more information or reservations, call 863-421-1893 or log on to www.hainescitytheatre.com.
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