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Sunday, April 7, 2013

THE COMERS ROCK THEATER GROUP

matt edwards, marshall funk, jennifer james
 
 
 
We have an active theater group in the region, Grayson County, Comer's Rock that is a mile or so west of Elk Creek on 658. I turned left on Caty Sage Road, a nice mountain road that opens at its other end at the theater that looks like it was once a school and possibly next a community center. I think they had a sign over the door that said Comer's Rock Club House. If it's not that, it's close. Nice brick building with windows all across the front. It sits there on its lot with grass parking area all the way around it and a big beautiful house on a hill behind it. The Comers Rock Theater Group have dinner theater shows there. My friend Dana Ross suggested I go. Dinner theater was not my idea of a good time. People he knew had told him about it with a high recommendation. He knew nothing about it, same as me. I thought I'd check it out, something going on in the region I did not know was happening. It didn't compute for  me, a dinner theater out in the country on a country road. Comers Rock is also known for the drag strip. Seems it's a happening place. I confess I entered the building with skepticism, telling myself to receive it as it is, leave off expectations, allow the cast to bypass whatever I may think it would be. I entered the door wide open for whatever I found inside. I wanted to receive the performance without judgment.
 
 
jennifer james, marshall funk, daniel boyer
 
I saw three people I know from Allegany. The dinner was to be commended. Chicken cooked a way I'd never had chicken before that was probably the best chicken I've had that I can recall. The vegetables were deliciously cooked too. Small slices of potato had a flavor that made me want more and more. The coffee was good, something I seldom find anymore outside a coffee shop. Restaurants have forgotten how to make coffee. The price went up ten to fifteen times what it was back when coffee found in restaurants was pretty good, drinkable. In restaurants any more I order "unsweet" tea, just because they can't mess it up, except when the waitress brings me "sweet" tea by mistake. At the Comers Rock Theater the dinner was so good that it alone was worth the drive. The cast acted as waiters and waitresses. The waitress at my table was Angela Dillon. It was about the best waitressing in my restaurant experience. By the end of the night I knew everybody at the table. Good people, pleasant to visit with. It turned out the parents of Daniel Boyer, picking banjo above, were at the table. It was a full house with all seats taken. And it was a friendly audience, people talking to one another freely even not knowing each other. You might say it was a good spirit in the place. The energy inside felt welcoming.  
 
 
          angela dillon, savannah cox

On the left is Angela Dillon, my table's waitress, and on the right is Savannah Cox, who entertained me about the best. When she was on stage my attention was on her. Her role required a good bit of sulking behavior in the beginning. There was no question this girl is from the mountains. She did mountain girl with an attitude like it was her own nature. A pouty little spoiled girl who grew up and never changed. I spoke with her after the show, mentioning how well she sulked. She was lit up after the couple hours of performing. She said she is not like that at all, quite the opposite. That could explain why she did it so well. The play was a comedy and Savannah struck my funny bone. Mary Alice Tuttle played a sassy backwoods girl, another one with an attitude, from up in a holler. I could see she was an actress playing a role, but it didn't seem like a role at all. She too carried that manner of her particular sassiness such that everybody knows at least one girl who tells you where to get off, knuckles on hips. I'm not one to laugh out loud much, but I was certainly entertained within. The story of the play was something on the order of an Andy Griffith Show episode, slapstick country comedy. That's not to slight it, but to give you an idea of the nature of the comedy.
 
 
intermission
 

Marshall Funk carried the lead role of the old boy who kept the country store for Lone Mule, Tennessee. His character was loud and blustery with limited self awareness. Funk carried the character well, very well, actually. He became the character at the beginning, the moment he walked onto the stage. He can pick a guitar too. The three of them in the picture above picked an old-time tune very respectably. He's definitely a picker. Jennifer played a good fiddle too. The play is called HEADIN FOR THE HILLS by Le Roma Greth. Dawn Taylor-Rhudy directed it, and did a good job of it. She played one of three women wanting Funk's character to marry them. She made a convincing hillbilly woman. You'd think that asking a hillbilly to play a hillbilly would be like asking a horse to play a horse. No acting involved. The mountain people of today are not very much like the mountain people in the place and time of this play, but many of the characteristics of the generations of mountain people past continue in the people of today. The people acting were not the people they portrayed, showing me that they did a very good job of acting, creating a convincing character. I've an idea it can be attributed to the director that all the actors made convincing characters. When a few do, it's the individual actors. When they all do, it's the director. In true acting form, they became the people they portrayed.
                                                                           
marshall funk, jeanne funk, glenda stone
 
These are the other two women wanting Funk's character for a husband. Several times in the play somebody carried a gun onstage. Two different men carried a shotgun at different times. They pointed it at other characters, held it casually waving the barrel in the audience direction. Every time it pointed at me I was on the verge of ducking, thinking, doesn't anyone get it that it is the unloaded guns that go off? A few times I was wondering what kind of shock wave would run through the place if one of the guns actually did go bang. I don't even mean to get into the political nonsense about guns in the news. It's just practical gun handling that put me ill at ease. Of course, a toy gun is not authentic. I could easily justify the use of the guns onstage, but mountain people I know never point even an unloaded gun at anyone for any reason. It is the first thing a daddy teaches his boy about guns. One of them was a man with white hair I thought would surely know better than to be waving a shotgun unconsciously in the direction of the audience. These guns were swaying all over the place. I doubt I was the only man in the audience with a mind for ducking under the table. The guns give the story a dramatic edge. I was told later that the firing pins were removed from the guns used. I had suspected they might have been removed, but didn't know it. I was seeing Brandon Lee in my mind's eye getting shot on a movie set by a bullet that was supposed to be a blank.   
 
sally bourne, savannah cox
 
Sally Bourne in the picture plays the young daughter of the store owner. She has a sweet tooth and snitches candy from the store. I heard she'd been with the group from the beginning, something like seven years. One of the more dynamic characters was Karen Hollifield. She plays a "city" lawyer. It was no question the city was New York, more specifically, Brooklyn. Her Brooklyn accent and her Brooklyn body language made such a sharp contrast to the people of the Southern Appalachian that don't pay such close attention to detail, it didn't matter what she said. Her perfect Brooklyn accent in the context of a bunch of hillbillies was funny all by itself. After the show, she told me she was from Brooklyn. Both Karen and Sally played second roles where they were hardly recognizable from the other roles they played. By the time the play was over, I was charmed. I saw on the back of the program that they will be putting on a play in late summer called THE GREAT NURSING HOME ESCAPE, written by Nathan Hartswick. That title is pulling me like a magnet. I helped my friend Jr Maxwell escape nursing homes twice. Neither place ever wants to see nor hear of me again. In both cases they were not going to let him go after his period of physical therapy the doctor put him in there for. When he'd finished his physical therapy both times, I pushed his wheelchair out the door with him in it clapping his hands he was so happy. Now that I know about this theater and have the experience of what they do on stage, I will be back. The next performance of this play will be May 5. The program also tells that Doug Vaughan did the cooking for the main course. An email address is given to get on the email list for information about upcoming shows, mark.dawnrhudy@yahoo.com. And a phone number 276.655.4744.
 
 
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2 comments:

  1. So glad you were able to attend this show and meet all the grest performers of the Comers Rock Theater group. My parents, Marshall and Jeanne love being a part of this group. Hope you can "come again"! Greta Sawyers

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  2. I was at the play also. I too enjoyed it and agree that we have a group of talented neighbors. This is the second play I have seen them perform. I plan on attending more in the future. I also enjoyed reading your blog. Marcia Sutherland

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