Good Ol' Girls is onstage at Theatre Now through June 2. The musical portrays the 7 ages of the southern woman, adapted from stories by southern authors Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle. The performance on Friday, 5/25 benefits the Carousel Center.
Playwright Paul Ferguson adapted the show at the request of Smith and McCorkle. Nashville songwriters Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman crafted the music. The show premiered in 2010 and had a successful off-Broadway run. Ferguson came to Wilmington from his professor post at UNC to direct this production.
Performances are Friday and Saturday nights through June 2 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are available with or without dinner.
The cast: Andrea Powell, Penelope Grover, Beth Corvino, Sydney Smith Martin, Lynette O'Callaghan, Bianca Shaw, and Katie Anderson.
Listen to two of the show's seven actresses, Lynette O'Callaghan and Katie Anderson, above. Our extended conversation is below.
Gina: What do you love about this show?
Katie: Oh, so many things. Many things. I mean, the cast is the biggest thing. The cast, and the chemistry between the cast.
Lynette: And just the stories themselves. They're about women empowering other women. I have a little tiny backstory to the whole thing. One of the writers that the monologues are based on or the place based on her writing is Jill McCorkle. We grew up in the same home town. A lot of things in the play I remember from school and from home and that kind of thing. So, that was an exciting part for me. I knew it was Jill's writing. My brothers have never been like, "Oh, we're happy for you to be in theater." And when I said, "Oh, I'm doing a piece that Jill McCorkle - it's her writing." They were like, "Oh, that's impressive."
Gina: Lynette, where did you grow up?
Lynette: I grew up in Lumberton, North Carolina, which is teeny tiny.
Katie: And I'm from Hayesville, North Carolina originally.
Gina: I understand the show is a lot of stories woven together, and that the actresses play a lot of different roles. There are seven actresses in the show, and you play different roles and tell different stories throughout.
Gina: Which story is your favorite story?
Katie: The waitress scene when we're all on stage. There's three of us kind of chatting it up, gabbing. Sydney is on a date with her boyfriend who's flirting with me - and I'm the waitress. I think that's the most fun scene. It ties it all together. It's near the end of Act One. It's so much fun. So much chemistry on stage.
Lynette: It is. That's when the three older actresses, myself included, are in the restaurant as well. We interact with Sydney. We're doing kind of pantomime eating at a fried seafood restaurant. I mean it's just fun, like acting things. But the chemistry is so natural. It was funny because Paul had to kind of notch us down a little bit. We were having so much fun on the side where the three of us are interacting and talking. Sydney gets into some serious dialogue and so they want the focus to be on that story and her. So he had to notch us down. It was really fun. But I do like that scene too.
Gina: And so you were talking about the three older actresses. So, there is an age range here of the women to tell these stories. Can you tell me about the different roles that the younger and older actresses play?
Katie: I think a lot of the younger roles are very rebellious. They're just so fun. We talk about getting our periods and sneaking out of the house, getting pregnant. Then also, you know, driving to the beach and wearing a new bikini. It's just a lot of fun. It reminds me of my small hometown in the Deep South. It's similar, but it's just got a few spins.
Lynette: I think the older actresses' roles are more reflective of the younger. In fact, there's two really powerful pieces where we're a Sydney plays the younger version of one of the older actresses, Penelope. Then there's another scene where Katie plays the younger version of Andy. I think it's showing the women younger, and then there's a lot of reflection as they get older. I talk about this sex education when I was in seventh grade, and it's an old school kind of thing. Even though it's all different stories kind of intertwined, I feel like the cast kind of makes it flow.
Katie: It flows.
Lynette: The cast just eases in - and that's a tribute to our director. I mean, he is phenomenal and has us doing transitions. I've been doing this since forever and have never had a director that went through transitions as much. We'll have a transition rehearsal just to get us from one scene to the next smoothly. I think that has helped us to move and make it flow better.
Gina: And the director is Paul Ferguson?
Gina: And he was the author of this work. He adapted this work for the stage.
Lynette: Exactly, yes.
Gina: And he didn't just do this yesterday - he did this back in the 90s.
Lynette: I think he said 15 years ago, but he's known the writer Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle, the two writers, and I think the music writers as well – Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman. He's known the four of them for quite some time. I think one of them approached him.
Katie: Yeah, I do know that he said this is the last time that he's directing this. So, he's probably gonna hand it off to someone else as far as taking the reins with that. He said this was the first time in 15 years that this was his original script where no one had changed it up.
Lynette: And with seven actresses--because it can be done with five. But, the original conception wanted seven - and he did it with seven Off Broadway. So he did, he did it with the seven. It's an original cast again, the seven. His wife was in the original cast, Andrea Powell, which is really cool. It's been nice to have her with us because, you know, of course she knows the show really well. So, it's been great.
The other thing too is he took this script and put our names on it. So, whoever does this play next it will have, my character as Lynette. Her character as Katie.
Katie: For the rest of forever.
Lynette: [Laughs] The rest of forever. I thought that was really cool that he did that for us. So, now it's got all our names on it because this was his last time directing it. That was very cool.
Gina: What is a "Good Ol' Girl"?
Lynette: A "good ol' girl" is a combination of a lot of things. She's a high spirited, good spirited woman. She likes her hair high and makes her closer to God and says she loves Elvis.
Katie: Bakes pies from scratch. Big hair and a big heart don't mean a small mind.
Lynette: Those are the "good ol' girls" and anybody can be a good ol' girl. When you see the play, it's universal. I think all women can relate to it. But, I feel like an original good ol' girl because I'm from the South and a lot of us feel that way because we are from the South. I mean, they talk about riding in a pickup truck. They talk about guns because even a good ol' girl can shoot a gun, but she can still look good in that sequined dress.
Lynette: That's kind of what I think are good old girl is.
Katie: Yeah, and she stands up for herself. I mean, I would say a good ol' girl is a Southern Feminist. She takes charge, and she doesn't like to be told what to do. I think that goes for all of the good ol' girls in the show and even in our life.
Lynette: Oh yeah. And, because I was from Lumberton and I know some of the places Jill did her research when she was writing, it just resonated with me. I felt like I lived it. I lived where she talked about. And the women - I feel like I know those women, you know. I grew up with those women. It was funny because one of the cast members is a friend of mine. She's from Lumberton, and she laughed out loud in a lot of places where you don't know how people are going to take it. Later, everybody was saying, "Oh, we thought she'd had a little too much wine." But, she knew the stories. She knew where all of that was coming from because she was a "good old girl." So, I think it's very relatable to everybody.
Gina: Tell me about the music.
Lynette: I think some of the pieces were crafted for the show. But the songwriters, Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman, have written songs for lots of people.
Katie: They're Grammy winners.
Lynette: They're Grammy winners. One of the ones that Katie sings with Penelope, "Appalachian Rain," is the most beautiful song. I want to say it was written for the show.
Katie: It meshes with the monologues, and it meshes with the story structure. We have a fantastic band working the show - and I'll just have to brag a little bit. The guitarist is my boyfriend, and the drummer is my drum teacher. The bassist is one of my best friends. It's just a lot of fun because it feels like they're the Eighth Good Ol' Girl. It feels like they're the last - besides the audience. That's what Paul says. We just have a lot of chemistry with the band. Usually, it doesn't always happen like that where the cast and the band have so much chemistry.
Lynette: And it's music that is fun to sing. A lot of the lyrics and a lot of the scenarios that lead into these songs that are just exhilarating. Then some of them are really poignant and sad and tell a story. You go through the gamut of emotions with the music and the monologues.
Katie: All of it's stirring and stimulating. Every night I cry at a different time.
Lynette: Yes, and the music is so important because it does go along with the story of these women.
Katie: It would not be the same at all without the music. It really is 50/50 - acting and music. It goes together, and it's perfect.
Lynnette: Linda Carlisle Markas is our Musical Director, and I can't say enough about her. She's just phenomenal - the band with her. It's great to have them up there. You just feel safe because they're behind you, and you know that you're all in this together kind of thing.
Gina: So. let's say that you are someone who has moved down recently from Pennsylvania or New Jersey or New York or whatever. You don't understand this culture. Is this a good introduction?
Lynette: Absolutely, yeah.
Katie: I would say yes. Part of the reason that Paul adapted the play was because he wanted to get rid of the stereotypes. This play completely switches them around and makes Southern woman look smart and independent and fearless and respectable. If you came down from Pennsylvania or New York, I think you would have a big appreciation for it because it's a whole different side that no one ever sees on television. That's why Paul adopted it. My parents both grew up in Michigan, and they love it.
Lynette: I also think they can relate to it even if they are from Pennsylvania or New York. I mean, I feel like there's a good ol' girl in all of us and all the women we know. A lot of people that have been to see the show once have already come back again. A lady was visiting from out of town and she came twice in a row. I don't think she was from the South. I think she was from up North. So, I think it's easy to get and understand.
Katie: Yeah, there's something for everyone. Even the men. They have a lot of fun when they come see the show. It's comedic. But it's heartfelt, it's dramatic, and it's a lot.
Lynette: It's just a lot of everything. I mean, you'll laugh, you'll cry.
Katie: I would say that one thing I would like to share is we got cast in the second round of auditions. Initially, there was a set cast and three girls dropped out. So, three or four of us replaced them. It was just so fortunate that the day that I saw this audition was the day of the audition - three hours before the audition.
It was right after I finished a show at UNCW, and it was the first week I didn't have rehearsal. I was like, "Oh, what am I going to do if I don't have rehearsal for something? I need to work on something." I go on Facebook - and I never look on Wilmington Theater. I see "Casting Audition for Girls 18 and Up - TheaterNow, downtown." And I was just like, "Sure, why not? I'll go do it." And I got it. And it was God.
Gina: So, you feel like, for you as personally as an actress, this has had a lot of meaning for you?
Katie: Oh yeah, for sure. For sure. I mean this is my third show in a row this year. I've only been acting since December. Every rehearsal with Paul is you just learn so much about yourself. It's the kind of thing where you think you know something and you didn't. You had no idea.
Lynette: I feel the same way. It's like Katie said, we came in after it had already been cast. I initially saw the audition but didn't audition because I haven't done a musical saying on stage in 20 years. I usually do straight comedy or straight drama. I did two shows with TheaterNow a couple of years ago, but I haven't been doing anything for a while because I worked full time. I have a 12-year-old who's now decided she's the actress in the family. So, for me to get this call and go and audition and get to be a good ol' girl - especially with my knowing that Jill McCorkle contributed to the writing in this - it was just very special to me. Paul has been just amazing. I just have a renewed respect for directors. I've never worked with someone like him that could just bring out things in you - different things - every single day. I mean, you learn something new about yourself as an actor every single day with him. So I that's what I take away from it.