Directors Penelope Johnson and Diane Gludovatz are pleased to announce the cast for the South Okanagan Amateur Players’ summer production of Sand Mountain at Tinhorn Creek Winery Amphitheatre.
Sand Mountain is a pair of original Appalachian folk tales written by American playwright Romulus Linney. These humorous tales are set at a rustic cabin in the plateaus of Alabama. The characters are simple mountain folk full of practical wisdom. Each tale has different characters but are set at the same location, are meant to be performed together. Both tales have a sweet unconventional charm and some good belly laughs. They have a decidedly cock-eyed view of the world and should leave audiences thinking – and smiling.
The first act is “Sand Mountain Matchmaking”. A young widow-woman is keen to remarry but not so keen on her over-eager suitors. She obtains advice from the local wise woman, who gives the young widow a piece of eyebrow-raising folk wisdom audiences are unlikely to ever forget.
The second act is “Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain”. Jesus and Saint Peter, dressed as poor wayfaring strangers, decide to pay a visit to Sand Mountain. Saint Peter can’t wait to get down to the rich valley full of God-fearing folks. The Lord has other ideas. He’s much more interested in meeting the young couple with fourteen children (all played as one child actor) who keep their mountain cabin in a foul state and drink moonshine. To Peter’s horror, the Lord declares he wants to bide a while, and Jesus spends the whole night swapping outrageous tall tales with his hosts.
Three newcomers to SOAP, all from Osoyoos, join the cast. Paul Everest plays the suitor Sam Bean in “Sand Mountain Matchmaking” and the title role of The Lord in “Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain”. “Paul conveyed strength and calm from the moment he spoke his first lines at the audition,” says Johnson, “and both these roles call for a certain quiet power in the character. He has theatre background in Ontario, so although he’s new to us, he’s definitely not new to the stage.”
Wendy Mellace, another SOAP newcomer, takes on the role of the matchmaker Lottie Stiles in “Sand Mountain Matchmaking”. Lottie provides guidance to the young widow Rebecca in her quest for a new husband, and gives her some eyebrow-raising but canny advice.
Kaleb Mailey charmed the directors and won the role of Vester Stiles, the matchmaker’s young grandson in “Sand Mountain Matchmaking”. Kaleb, only eight years old, initially had to master the Appalachian slang as it appeared in the script. “But once you got him to memorize a line, and act it out,” says Johnson, “you could see he had real understanding of the character.” Gludovatz adds: “And of course, being cute as a button, he’s going to just steal every scene he’s in.”
The directors are especially pleased to see relative newcomers move from small roles in The Sound of Music into larger roles that display their talents.
Aimee Grice, a member of the nuns chorus in The Sound of Music, takes the romantic female lead, Rebecca, in “Sand Mountain Matchmaking” and plays Jean in “Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain”.
“Aimee really impressed me whenever she was called upon to fill in for someone else’s part during rehearsals for Sound of Music,” says Johnson. “She could immediately grasp a character and convey very clear, strong emotion. Then she would quietly resume her place in the chorus, and I would think “The audience will never see this, will have no idea how good she really is.””
David Badger, last seen as Captain von Schreiber in The Sound of Music, plays a chilling suitor in “Matchmaking” and the moonshine swilling father Jack in “Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain.” The two different characters will give Badger an opportunity to flex his acting muscles.
“He blew me away as the icy Nazi captain. My first thought? “We need to give this fellow some more stage time!”” Gludovatz agrees, and so does her dog Pookie. “When David auditioned for the aggressive suitor, Pookie, who had been lying at my feet, stood up and started growling at him.”
Patrick Turner worked as a stage hand when not performing his small role as Nazi sympathizer Herr Zeller in Sound of Music. Now he plays two characters in Sand Mountainwith similar personalities . He takes on the role of Radley, a Bible thumping suitor in “Matchmaking”, and the church-going Prosper Valley Farmer in “Why the Lord Come”. Although the Farmer is a small role, Turner will get to deliver the play’s final hilarious punchline, one audiences will not forget. “He just makes me laugh,” says Gludovatz.
Two more actors who had larger roles in The Sound of Music return to play quite different characters in Sand Mountain.
Darryl Mackenzie starred as Georg von Trapp in the musical, but makes a departure from that austere character. MacKenzie plays a lusty, swaggering suitor in “Matchmaking” and the complaining Saint Peter in “Why the Lord Come”.
“So far, Darryl has played rather emotionally reserved characters with SOAP,” says Johnson, “The naval captain Georg in Sound of Music, and before that, the upper class Charles in Blithe Spirit. We were delighted with his comedic talents. He has a mobile expression and a wonderful drawl. ”
Wesley Frederick, who played Kurt von Trapp in last year’s musical, is rolling up his sleeves to play the scrawny scruffy Fourteen Children in “Why the Lord Come”. This unusual but highly entertaining role requires Wesley to argue and fight with his thirteen imaginary brothers and sisters.
Diane Gludovatz, a SOAP veteran, will step away from the assistant director’s chair to take on the pivotal narrator role in “Why the Lord Come”. She plays the Sang (Ginseng) Picker, a wise woman who has seen it all on Sand Mountain, and entertains the audience with her stories.
Sand Mountain is slated for production on Saturday July 18. Other dates earlier in that week, are currently being negotiated.