Last week, I had the opportunity to do something I hadn’t realized I missed doing until I had done it again: go to the theatre.
I hadn’t been since going to see “Beauty and the Beast” at Theatre Memphis way back in September! And it’s not because Memphis lacks a theatre scene. In fact, it’s just the opposite! In addition to Theatre Memphis, there’s shows all the time places like the Orpheum Theatre, Hattiloo Theatre, Theatreworks, and the Evergreen Theatre. Sometimes it can be a lot to choose from, but it just goes to show you how committed Memphis is to showcasing its artistic talent. I was reminded of this recently when I met a guy who shared with me that he really wants to be an actor, and went to a local theatre’s open casting call only to realize he was unprepared because he didn’t have a prepared monologue. While for some that could be devastating, but he went on to tell me how encouraging the director was to him and how he gave him some suggestions on monologues to learn for the next opportunity. It was in stark contrast to some of the stories I’ve heard from my best friend who is a long-time actor in both Chicago and New York, but warmed my heart and reminded me of that southern hospitality that is characteristically Memphis.
But, I digress.
The show I saw was “Dearly Departed” at the Circuit Playhouse, one of the two venues a part of Playhouse on the Square, Memphis’ only theatre company with a Resident Company of professional actors. The playhouse is actually in a converted movie theater—it still has the neon sign out front—and still retains all of the original charm of an old theater, but once you enter the actual auditorium, you are greeted with all of the convenience of a modern theater. I sat about four rows from the stage, and had an excellent view to all the drama. There’s a big lounge to relax in to grab a drink and snack before the performance or during intermission, too.
That being said, the acting was a bit over the top for me. Besides the overdrawn southern drawl of almost all of the characters, I was a bit distracted from the wigs on most of the ladies. Then again, this was a comedy. I hadn’t heard of the play before, and from the title figured out it was something connected with death, but once the play got started I had this weird feeling of déjà vu, like I had seen this play or knew the story line in advance. And then it hit me: this play was the basis for the 2001 movie “Kingdom Come”, which I loved. (Anything with Loretta Devine is probably going to make me laugh until tears are streaming down my face.) The strongest acting probably came from Jamie Boller who played Suzanne, and Caroline Simpson who did double-duty as Delightful and Nadine. Those two made it worth it, and I left the theater with their scenes replaying in my head.
All-in-all, it was great to soak in a performance if nothing more for a reminder of what a vibrant arts scene there is in Memphis and how I should take advantage of it more. Memphis is definitely known for its music with events like Beale Street Music Fest happening soon and lots of places to hear local music. But don’t forget to check out and support our local performing arts venues. There’s so many to choose from that have full seasons producing a half dozen plays and/or musicals a season! Grab yourself a ticket, and enjoy!
I’d love to hear some of the best performances you’ve seen in Memphis or what your favorite theatre company is. Leave a comment below and let us all know what Memphis has to offer.