The Saturday Morning Garden Club needs new members to continue its century of beautification projects in Big Stone Gap, Va. The newest candidate, a master gardener, could attract more members and save the club. But she might be interested in the club president’s son – which doesn’t sit well with his mother. Yet finding each other may be exactly what the young couple needs.
A lighthearted comedy, “The Saturday Morning Garden Club” is the newest play from Shoestring Theatre Co. and is part of the Fairfax City Spotlight on the Arts. It’ll be presented at the Sherwood Center, 3740 Blenheim Blvd. in Fairfax.
Show times are Sunday, April 30, at 2 p.m.; Friday, May 5, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 6, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, May 7, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 via https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-saturday-morning-garden-club-tickets-556094201727 and at the door. Additional performances, May 20-21, at Arts Herndon, 750 Center St. in Herndon.
“Set in my real hometown of Big Stone Gap, the play showcases the hard work of local garden clubs in a loving way,” said its playwright and director, Amelia Townsend. “And the town’s real Dogwood Garden Club worked with us to help develop it.” In addition, Big Stone Gap natives Richard Phillips and Friends, plus Tyler Hughes, composed its original music score.
“The message is that love will see you through anything,” said Townsend. “The rose’s thorns may prick you, but the rose will still be beautiful. We show that people can bicker and have differences of opinions – and still love each other. For example, throughout the show, garden-club members Barbara and Etta give society’s point of view through their comedic statements. And everybody who’s ever been in a club can identify with all its ups and downs.”
She said her nine actors are “absolutely the perfect people to bring these characters to life. They really embody the characters’ spirit, and you can’t imagine anyone else playing these roles.” And, added Townsend, “We couldn’t do this without the City of Fairfax, the Fairfax Commission on the Arts and the Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts Festival. Their support gives life to Shoestring Theatre Co.”
Shayne Gardner portrays Macy Gibbons, president of The Saturday Morning Garden Club. “She was widowed young, with a sick child,” said Gardner. “He’s now 25 and fine, but she’s still protective of him. The two constants in her life have been her son and the garden club, so she’s controlling of both of them, but in a nice way. She values trust and loyalty because she’s a loyal person. She’s friendly but can be overly sweet while cutting you to shreds.”
Enjoying her role, Gardner said, “I was my condo board’s president, so I understand the way Macy runs things. And I like showing her many dimensions – loving, snarky, demanding, warm, visionary and creative.”
She said audiences will be able to identify with many of these characters, and it’s a “cute story. Boy meets girl, they have a fight and break up, but eventually get back together. In this case, though, the love triangle is boy, girl and mom – because mom does not approve.”
Playing Macy’s son Larkin is Edmond Turner. “He’s lost, not sure what he wants in life and is going through a quarter-life crisis,” explained Turner. “He’s a bit of a playboy, but not at heart. He’s just trying to avoid any responsibilities and feelings he has, so that’s why he dates several women. He likes the attention but doesn’t want to commit. He can be charming, but also anxious and on edge, a lot of the time. And he’s always thinking how he can get out of things.”
Turner said Larkin’s fun to play because “I’m naturally a shy person, so that helps me tap into this role. Being onstage can be uncomfortable – which Larkin is, most of the time, so I just lean into it.”
Overall, he said, “This play has a lot of heart and is personal to the director, which comes through in the production. You get to see a piece of this place where she grew up. And people will also like the characters’ interactions with each other. It’s a slice-of-life, lighthearted show.”
Caroline Kinney portrays Darby Pierpoint, the 22-year-old military widow who catches Larkin’s eye. “She’s an ambitious, compassionate woman dealing with a big loss and a lot of grief,” said Kinney. “Although born in Big Stone Gap, she grew up in Ohio. But with persuasion from her cousin Cheyenne, she moves home to find out who she is outside of the grief and loss she’s been consumed with. She’s friendly but a bit apprehensive, because her family left there a long time ago and she doesn’t know anyone but her cousin – and doesn’t know if she’ll fit in and people will like her.”
Kinney said it’s wonderful playing someone “similar to me in age and who’s felt lost after decisions we’ve made and big, sudden changes, and is figuring out which specific life path to take next. So it’s been great to put myself in Darby’s place and explore her feelings.”
Since the story takes place in Virginia, Kinney said it’ll be nostalgic and familiar to many people. “They’ll also relate to the characters and see themselves in them, and they’ll love how heartwarming the story is,” she added. “And it’s perfect for spring because it’s about a garden club – and spring flowers symbolize new opportunities and hope for the future. So come support local, community theater and see a show that’s wonderful entertainment for all ages.”
A nonprofit, Shoestring Theatre Co. is dedicated to bringing the authentic culture of Southwest Virginia to life via original stories presented across the commonwealth.