and they can’t even hold that gig for long.
In a desperate attempt to reverse their fortunes, these down-and-out actors must pull off the dual roles of a lifetime when they learn of a rich old lady who’s looking to bequeath her wealth to a pair of long-lost relatives. But in order to get the money, Jack and Leo will have to get in touch with their feminine sides.Because when there’s money involved, some people are willing to do just about anything – even dress in drag.
Such is the premise for Jacksonville State University’s production of Leading Ladies, which runs through Sunday, explains director and choreographer Susan McCain.
“Let’s just say there are a lot of mismanaged judgments,” McCain says, still a bit groggy from a late night of rehearsals. “There are some curious romantic entanglements and some farcical situations that’ll keep the audience guessing.”
Leading Ladies is a high-energy, physical comedy that’s forced its young actors – particularly JSU freshman Adam Lane, who plays Jack, and Lee Lundy, a high school senior playing Leo – to stay on their toes.
“The actors have been working their hardest on the physicality of the show, making sure the movements stay clean and sharp so that the images on stage don’t get blurred,” McCain explained. “When performing high comedy, physical comedy, the tendency can be to go overboard, turning it into non-theater. For a lot of them this is a different kind of performance. It’s not an in-your-face, one-liner type of comedy.”
To teach the actors this fine art, McCain had them watch old Three Stooges episodes as well as Vaudeville performances and routines by comedic legends like George Burns, who knew how to deliver a joke with both timing and sincerity.
“They’ve really had to go all out … putting themselves out there for the sake of the show,” McCain said.
To get in touch with his gender-bending role of Leo, Lee Lundy, a high school senior making the 45-minute drive from his home in Cedartown, Ga., found inspiration in Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor, particularly in her leading role inCleopatra.
“She’s very regal … ’course not the way I do it,” Lundy said. “Mine’s not a very accurate portrayal of a woman at all. I’m very exaggerated and don’t look good in a black wig.”
Lee’s entire family graduated from JSU, including his sister, Laura, who was a theater major. He has been active with the local community theater group where both his parents volunteer. Susan McCain has also been there to help with auditions for various productions, which was how the two met. When McCain was casting for the role of Leo, she suggested Lundy try out because he was “very cartoony,” he recalled.
For Lee, being involved in a college production has been a tremendous benefit because he’s been able to focus on one task rather than the endless responsibilities that came with working in community theater.
“I’m used to running around like a chicken with my head cut off,” said Lee, who often helped with everything from costumes to choreography. “But this college performance feels so much more professional. My only job is acting and doing the best job I can. It really changes your perspective.”
On a somber note, all of those in the drama department will be performing with a heavy heart following the passing of longtime secretary Jan Rhodes, who died this summer after a battle with cancer. Not only is the entire season being dedicated in her memory, but a group of drama department alumni are seeking to endow a scholarship in her honor.
“She fought hard but never showed it,” McCain said of Rhodes’ cancer battle. “She never got down and always worked hard to keep her spirits up. We all miss her very much.”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., and Sunday, 2 p.m.
Where: Earnest Stone Performing Arts Center, JSU
How much: Tickets are $10 for adults; $8 senior citizens/JSU personnel, $5 student, child, military
For more information, call 782-5684 or visit www.jsu.edu/drama
Jan Rhodes endowment
To learn more or to make a donation, contact the JSU Foundation at 256-782-5306 or visit the JSU Foundation at www.jsu.edu/giving.