Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Townswomen Take to the Boards

Brian Wagner

Whatzup Features Writer

Published June 1, 2017

Heads Up! This article is 5 years old.

The first comment I receive when people ask what’s coming up next at Arena Dinner Theatre is, “Wow! That’s a long title.” The next question is usually, “What’s a Townwomen’s Guild?”

Well, back in the days before the women’s liberation movement and women becoming such an integral part of the workforce, oftentimes the wives of the well-heeled men in the town, like politicos, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen, would form social groups that typically revolved around these women doing things to raise money for charitable causes. They may publish a cookbook, organize a trip or in the case of this production, put on an amateur theatrical piece of entertainment. American audiences may think of a group akin to the Junior League in the 1960s. In Britain, where our show is set, they’re called a townswomen’s guild. Also, in the case of this production, I cannot stress the words “amateur theatrical” too strongly!

These theatrical pieces were usually done on the cheap, keeping costs low in order to raise more money for the cause. They were directed, designed, costumed and acted by the women in the guild, many of whom had no actual talent or training above a love of seeing themselves on stage. This is the group we find ourselves among in this production.

Our cast consists of the unflappable director and actress Mrs. Reece (Suzan Moriarty) who is playing the leading (male) role of Prof. Einstein and who keeps the show moving at all costs, even when the leading male ingénue can’t come out of the loo and won’t be physically present on the stage. She is joined by her good friends: Thelma (Jen Poiry-Prough), playing the dual roles of little Jimmy and his older sister Susan; Felicity (Rebecca Karcher), is the most inexperienced member of the troupe who, having been lent Mrs. Reece’s latest issue of Amateur Stage, fancies herself the next Meryl Streep in her dual roles of the vicar’s wife and our Martian visitor; Norah (Becky Niccum), the group’s resident character actress having to play the dual roles of the vicar’s housekeeper and Prof. Einstein’s creation, Roberta the Robot, while on an accidental Valium high; and Gordon (Paul R. Faulkner), the usual stage manager and heavy-lifter for the women who has been drafted into the role of the vicar against his wishes and despite his inability to memorize lines.

I believe you can tell by the description that this isn’t going to be a real think piece! This very funny British farce was written by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin, Jr. as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has gone on to spawn many more titles featuring the Farndale Townswomen’s Guild covering everything from A Christmas Carol to Agatha Christie to Macbeth and more. It has been a joy from beginning to end to work with this talented group (it takes a good deal of talent to look like you don’t have any!) and we’re all anxious for you to experience this with us. Who knows? You may even win the flower arranging competition!

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