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Rialto Players to present Dashing Through the Snow

By Carol Rolf Contributing Writer

This article was published November 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

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Appearing in the Rialto Players’ upcoming production of Dashing Through the Snow are, front row, from the left, Coe Wilson, Gail Fickle, Tenethrea Buffington, David Garrett and Ruth Minick; and back row, from the left, Casey Myers, Jennifer DeGroot, Shane Atkinson, Jonna Gibby, Cathy Hoelzeman-Bond, Marty Ault, Stephanie Koontz, Jennie Denniston, Rich Minick and Desiree Phillips. Not shown are Ed and Mary Boyer.

— Patrons of the Rialto Theater know its “Players” like the works of Southern playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. The actors like playing the Futrelle sisters and their friends.

The Rialto Players will present Dashing Through the Snow, the last of the playwrights’ works that includes the Futrelle sisters.

Performance dates are Friday and Saturday and again Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 2. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m., and the Sunday matinee is at 2. Dinner will be served before the Dec. 1 performance.

The dinner menu will include ham, turkey, macaroni and cheese, green beans, holiday fruit salad, tossed salad, rolls, pecan pie, chocolate cake and banana pudding.

General-admission tickets to all performances are $10, and meal tickets for the dinner are $15.

For tickets and more information, call the Rialto at (501) 477-9955 for tickets and information. Tickets are also available at the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce and online at rialtoartscenter.com.

Director Casey Myers of Perryville describes the play as “a set of four one-acts,” with the last act featuring the Futrelle sisters. Myers also has a part in the play, that of 75-year-old Della Crowder, who is feuding with her 80-year-old sister.

“It’s a lot of fun to both act and direct,” said Myers, who is aided in her directing duties by veteran actor Jonna Gibby as assistant director and by Morrilton High School freshman Hunter Garrett as junior director.

“When I first read this play, the ending made me sob,” said Cathy Hoelzeman-Bond of Morrilton, producer of the upcoming show who also is playing, for the third time, the role of Rhonda Lynn Lampley, half-sister to Twink, Honey Raye and Frankie Futrelle.

“So many people wanted more of the Futrelles, but there wasn’t enough material for a full play,” she said. “So the authors wrote the last part of this play as a final tribute and fitting end to the saga of those wild and crazy sisters and their friend Raynerd.”

As the plot unfolds, it’s Christmas week at the Snowflake Inn in Tinsel, Texas, and during the span of four evenings leading up to Christmas Day, the wackiest guests ever are about to check into the bed and breakfast.

The story line includes a brother and sister trying to end the feud between two old aunts at war; two hammy actors looking to commit a crime; and the return of the Futrelle sisters — Honey Raye, Twink, Frankie and Rhonda Lynn — who, along with their best friend, Raynerd, keep things hopping for the innkeeper, who is also dealing with a whining guest and a tipsy cook.

The following cast members also appear in the play:

•Tenethrea Buffington of Conway appears as Trina Walcott, owner of the Snowflake Inn. Buffington made her debut at the Rialto as Ruth Kelly, RN, in Harvey. “I’m loving this character,” she said. “I get to be crazy. She’s very eccentric and is being pushed to the limits by her guests.”

•David Garrett of Morrilton, whose voice is heard as Mr. Boykin, last appeared in Harvey in the role of Judge Omar Gaffney. In this play, Garrett’s character, which is heard and not seen, “whines all the time. Nothing’s ever right,” Garrett said in his whiniest voice. “I complain to Miss Walcott, and she finally comes at me with a shovel, and that ends our ‘silent night.’”

•Gail Fickle of Morrilton, whose voice is heard as Lou Ida, the inn’s cook, usually works backstage, most recently as costumer for Harvey. In this play, she is heard behind the kitchen door. “I throw food and pots and pans,” she said. “I even get a little tipsy.”

•Mary Boyer of Conway, who appears as Cuddles, a woman with a secret, and her husband, Ed Boyer, who plays Binky, a man with a secret of his own, have been in productions at the Rialto before, but never onstage at the same time, until now, when they have a scene together. Mary debuted at the Rialto as Miss Clarie in Steel Magnolias and also appeared as CeeCee Windham in The Red Velvet Cake War. Ed also appeared in The Red Velvet Cake War as Cousin Purvis.

•Shane Atkinson of Morrilton plays Hoyt Ledford. “Hoyt is a well-meaning nephew trying to unite his two old crotchety aunts,” said Atkinson, who has appeared in a number of Rialto productions. He won a Best Actor award for his work in The Express Line at the 2009 Arkansas Community Theatre Association’s AACTfest competition.

•Jennifer DeGroot of Morrilton plays the role of Donna Jo Austin, Hoyt’s sister. “I brought one of the aunts to town, but I don’t know what’s going on,” DeGroot said. This is her first time on stage, but she handled props for A Christmas Story and directed The Red Velvet Cake War.

•Coe Wilson of Petit Jean Mountain portrays Ennis Puckett. “I play an 80-year-old woman who’s been feuding with her 75-year-old sister for 35 years,” Wilson said in describing her character. “And it’s all her fault.” Wilson has appeared onstage at the Rialto as Ouiser in Steel Magnolias and as Aunt LaMerle in The Red Velvet Cake War.

•Desiree Phillips of Conway is portraying Paulette Coogan. Phillips is making her debut with the Rialto Players in Dashing Through the Snow.

Her character is the “crazy stage manager” for the traveling show, A Christmas Carol. “It’s been a long time since I’ve acted, but I’m having a good time,” Phillips said.

•Rich Minick of Russellville plays Ainsley Danforth, and his wife, Ruth, plays Lenora Benedict. Like the Boyers, Rich and Ruth Minick appeared in Harvey together, but not in the same scene. In this production, they play a pair of flamboyant actors touring with A Christmas Carol and looking to commit a crime.

“This guy is really full of himself,” Rich said of his character. “He’s the hammiest part I’ve ever played.”

Ruth said her character is “also very flamboyant.

“I’ve been with this fella in many productions and know his ins and outs. I just tolerate him. I’ve agreed to help him fulfill a promise to a friend.”

•Jeannie Denniston plays Twink Futrelle Buntner. This is the fourth time Denniston has appeared as Twink. Her last part in a Rialto production was that of socialite Betty Chumley in Harvey.

“I know her well,” Denniston said of her character, Twink. “This time, she’s all obsessed with planning an impromptu wedding for her sister, Honey Raye.”

•Stephanie Koontz appears as Honey Raye Futrelle. “Honey Raye doesn’t think she’s making a mistake by marrying again, even though this will be her sixth husband,” Koontz said with a smile.

Koontz last appeared with the Rialto Players as Peaches in The Red Velvet Cake War.

•Jonna Gibby of Morrilton portrays Frankie Futrelle Dubberly. She is also assistant director of the play. This is the first time Gibby has appeared as one of the Futrelle sisters. Her last role with the Rialto Players was that of Veta, Elwood’s sister, in Harvey.

“Frankie is very nervous about what’s fixin’ to happen to her sister, Honey Raye,” Gibby said of her character. “And she’s got to tell her what she thinks; plus, she’s going through the change of life.”

• Marty Ault of Morrilton re-creates the role of Raynerd Chisum. “I just loves Christmas,” he said, reciting a line his character says in another play, Christmas Belles. “I couldn’t turn town playing Raynerd again.”

Most recently, Ault played Newt Blaylock in The Red Velvet Cake War.

Additional members of the production team include Mary Wood, female understudy; Lindell Roberts, lighting and sound director; Mikayla Hopkins and Mary Wood, stage managers; David Garrett, set designer; Devin Pittinger, set construction; Coe Wilson, set decorator; Alvie Bryant, lights; Cindy Mears, properties mistress; Gail Fickle and Cindy Mears, costumes/makeup and hair; Ben Scroggins, curtains; Quentin Bowling, Wyatt Burgener and Scott Wiedower, house crew; Shawnna Bowles, publicity/ Rialto Community Arts Center executive director; Erin Horn, production art/program design; Kayla Koontz, program photography; Theresa Paladino, hospitality/chief cook; and Becky Lewandowski, Dr. Jim Bryan and Dianna Denton, hospitality crew.

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