Lights go up on newest Showtimers play
CAVE SPRING–Community theater is always a family affair. The organization president, when not managing operations, sews costumes for the performers. The director’s son helps carry in furniture before a nighttime rehearsal. And the actors—not pampered, this bunch—come in every Saturday to work on the set.
On Wednesday, Showtimers, a local jewel in the Cave Spring area, premiered its newest production, “Night Must Fall.” And while the president sewed the costumes, and the director has a day job in the insurance industry, that does not mean the play is not just as good, or better, for it.
Showtimers was begun in 1951 by a group of six people who wanted to put on a few amateur productions during the summer. The first shows were performed in a theater at Roanoke College, before the organization bought a church building on McVitty Road in Roanoke in 1961. Today, Showtimers, a non-profit organization run by a board of directors, has performed more than 300 plays and musicals—not bad for a group begun by just a handful of passionate people. They put on six plays every year: two musicals, one comedy, one drama, and one suspense/thriller. The plays and musicals are suggested by actors, directors, patrons, and the community, and the play-reading committee narrows it down to three in each category before the board makes the final decision.
“It’s really the most important decision we make all year,” Cindy Keeling, the current Showtimers president, said.
It is fair to say that those six founders would be proud of where Showtimers is today: firmly planted in its history, with an eye towards the future. The small organization has not become a group of divas, but has maintained its family atmosphere. “Night Must Fall” director Nancy Lawrence fits in perfectly with that environment, as someone who has worked her way up from the bottom, and embraces newcomers who hope to do the same.
Lawrence, who has lived in Roanoke most of her life, got her start in theater in the 1990s, when the crime scene/murder mystery scene came to town. She and her husband Bruce auditioned, and were bitten by the theater bug.
In 2001, the couple came to Showtimers. Nancy Lawrence started out sweeping hay off the floor and pulling the curtain.
“That was my job for my first play,” Lawrence said.
Then she got one line in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and one more line in “The Goodbye Girl.” Finally, her big break was in “Love, Sex, and the IRS,” where she played a drunken mother, a role she has been typecast in since.
“And I don’t drink!” Lawrence laughed.
She has also been on the board for five years, and is currently vice president. With “Night Must Fall,” though, she makes her directing debut, and she is thrilled about it.
“Getting to direct has been such an experience,” Lawrence said.
The production, “Night Must Fall,” is set in England in the 1930s. The play, this year’s suspense/thriller, focuses on a grumpy older woman, a charming young man who gets into her good graces, and a woman who mysteriously goes missing.
“I’m just eaten up by this play,” Lawrence said.
She is also thrilled with her cast. Twenty-five people came out to audition for eight parts, and, according to Lawrence, they were all the cream of the crop. She had a hard time rejecting the ones who did not make it, but, as part of the community theater experience, that is part of the director’s job as well.
The cast Lawrence chose is made up of a wide variety of people. The main character is a retired lawyer from Pennsylvania, and others involved are librarians, legal assistants, and there is even one professional actor in the mix.
“One of the nice things about Showtimers is that we have professionals… [and] we have people who have never set foot on stage. And everyone gets equal treatment,” Keeling said.
Plus, none of them get paid.
“It is a labor of love,” Keeling said.
“Night Must Fall” premiered on Wednesday, and will be performed every Wednesday through Sunday until October 3. Tickets are $12 for adults, $5 for children. More information can be found by calling 774-2660, or visiting www.showtimers.org.