Meet The Cast & Director of ‘Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got The Will?’

Posted on March 6, 2013

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Harmony Rhodes meets Orville Turnover. Keegan Cruse plays Orville, a redneck, beer-swilling, wife-beating trash collector. Keegan is a teacher in real life and once I learned he was a fellow Trekkie we bonded for life of course. I don’t wanna give any spoilers away but ‘Orville’ and ‘Harmony’ have a physical confrontation and Keegan and I have a hard time keeping an angry face when we square off.

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Charmaine Crutcher plays Mama Wheelis, the matriarch of the family, Charmaine and I performed together in ‘The Butler Did It’ a dinner theater production at the Strauss last year, so I was already aware of the selfless dedication she brings to the stage, she is also effervescent as Alka Seltzer and as sweet as sugar, an absolute pleasure to be around. So far, her curtain call has received the loudest ovation. I’m sure that’s because the audience relates to Mama Wheelis, we’ve all got one in our families. She is the linchpin, the moral center of Daddy’s Dyin’ and whether toiling away in the kitchen or fussing over her freshly-Pledged coffee table, Mama Wheelis was a comforting presence on stage and Charmaine is the the same back stage, always willing to help the rest of us as she juggled one of, if not the biggest role in the show. Plus, she always shared her cheese dip with me when rehearsals adjourned to the Mexican restaurant next door to the Strauss. Made me feel bad when I skipped out on the tip. Sorry, Charmaine 🙂

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Meet Cindy Scott (no relation). Cindy brings Marlene Turnover to life. Marlene is the long-suffering, abused spouse of Orville Turnover. Like Keegan, her onstage husband, Cindy is also a school teacher. Harmony and Marlene get high on marijuana and well… you’ll just to have to come see the show to see what happens. Right after rehearsals started Cindy’s dog, a family pet for over a decade, took very ill. On our second night, a sold out Friday night performance Cindy had to go onstage a few hours after having her beloved pet to sleep. She was fantastic, delivered her lines and got tons of laughs, she stole the show while her heart was breaking, it was inspiring to watch.

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Jon Baccarini is the General Manager of the Strauss Theater and he directed this production of Daddy’s Dyin’, Where’s the Will? Jon is another example of Franklin parish’s overabundance of creative folk. Through the years I’ve met a stunning array of left-brained, hyper-creative dynamos who hailed from Franklin parish and Jon is the latest. He has taught me so much about stage performing, for moi’, Jon is the perfect director, alternatively a kind shepherd of his flock of actors and a merciless whip-cracking taskmaster when he needs to be. Thank God he is such a brilliant talent because two and a half weeks prior to opening nite, a sudden and serious family illness forced one of our actors to drop out and Jon spent two days rewriting the script without the character of Lurlene Turnover-Rogers. Let me say that again; TWO &1/2 WEEKS BEFORE OPENING NITE JON HAD TO REWRITE THE ENTIRE SHOW! I said the man was talented right? I was very lucky, Harmony and Lurlene had very few interactions and the changes had almost no effect on my role, everyone else had to ‘go back to the drawing board’ so to speak and relearn lines, in some their own cue lines, the words that belonged to Lurlene now belonged to them.  I was awed by how quickly this group responded but it would have been impossible without Jon Baccarini, I salute you sir, thanks for casting me as Harmony Rhodes in your show and I’m really glad we’re friends.  And why the hell is The Joker photo-bombing Jon and I in this pic?

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Is Tom Longnecker an awesome name or what? Tom is the oldest member of our cast, he plays Buford Turnover, the daddy who is dyin’. Tom defines Renaissance Man; he is an accomplished professional actor with 31 years of stage work under his belt including many years touring with a Shakespearean company. Tom is a retired teacher and owns a working ranch in Mississippi. Oh, did I mention Tom is also an astrophysicist? Tom has some awesome stories like the time he stayed in character as a corpse while a scorpion crawled up his leg in an outdoor production of King Lear. His version of Buford Turnover is guaranteed to bring tears of laughter and sweet sadness to the hardest of hearts.

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Shonda Butts plays Evalita Turnover the black sheep of the Turnover family and the fiance’ of my Harmony Rhodes. Evalita has returned home after a six year absence to wait, not-too patiently, for her daddy to kick the bucket and collect her inheritance. Evalita and Harmony are two horn-dogs and Shonda and I, literally walk in the door pawing all over each other. Feigning affection is tough in any circumstances, it’s especially difficult with a total stranger. But Shonda is a terrifically talented actress, she needs no better testimony that faking chemistry with a guy old enough to be her… well, older brother. And she brings Evalita to life. Shonda is so talented I just assumed she was a professional actor, I soon learned she has a psychology degree and works at a local telecommunications company. It was a tough acting gig for me, can’t tell you how tough it is having a gorgeous 26 year old pretending to be horny as a goat crawling all over me, a traumatic ordeal that continues to scar me deeply. Evalita was my wife’s least favorite character, never could figure out why…

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Last, but certainly not least, meet Natalie Weaver who brings Sara Lee Turnover to life in Daddy’s Dyin’. Natalie isn’t a native southerner so the Texas accent was tough. She mastered it, I mean she nailed it, her accent was flawless, by opening nite Natalie slipped into Sara Lee like I slip into my ragged old comfortable bathrobe. Sara Lee Turnover is the oldest child, the one who stayed behind to care for her ailing father and grandmother. When everyone else split for greener pastures Sara Lee packed away her dreams and did her duty for her daddy. Natalie Weaver did her duty for this production. After each rehearsal we’d all sit down and take notes and Natalie made me a better performer because her work ethic is so intense, she is so diligent I had to step up my game just to keep up. Sara Lee is a pivotal character in fact, in my not-so-humble opinion, she is the most interesting character, so torn and bitter, so, so very lonely. But noble and possessing a dignity her on-stage siblings lack.

So that’s us.

We were complete strangers a few months ago and now, we’re a family.

There were others, many others who brought this production to life and I’ll introduce you them next week in a recap of our run.

Meantime, please come to the show, we have 4 more performances, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday nites and our final show, a Sunday matinee on 3/10.

Call the Strauss – (318) 323-6681 to reserve your tickets today!

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