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Thursday, October 02, 2014, 12:22 p.m.
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Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre explores nation with three shows

By Angela Spencer

This article was published June 8, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

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Steven Frye, professor of theater at Harding University, will direct two shows for the Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre this year. The first is Faith County, a comedy centered around a county fair, showing tonight and Thursday through Saturday.

SEARCY — The Shakespeare quote “all the world’s a stage” is often apropos, but a Searcy summer tradition is focusing this year on stories of one nation.

The Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre on Harding University’s campus is celebrating the United States with three shows in the theater’s 2014 season, Red, White and Blue(berry Muffins).

This summer, shows Faith County, Dixie Swim Club and 1776 will showcase various aspects of the nation, including good Southern fun at a county fair, friendships that last through the years and the beginning of the country’s history.

“This is the 32nd year we’ve done the summer program,

and we’ve been blessed with a thriving program,” said Steven Frye, professor of theater at Harding University. Frye will direct Faith County and Dixie Swim Club and will play the role of John Hancock in 1776.

“All seating is reserved, and we usually sell out throughout the course of the summer,” Frye said.

The Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre cast and crew include community members and Harding faculty, staff and students. Frye said the dinner theater has a good working relationship with Center on the Square, another theater in Searcy, and the relationship helps give people from all walks of life a way to express themselves artistically throughout the year.

“We’ve got everyone from bank managers to police officers who are part of what we do. We love to have them explore their talent,” Frye said. “Community theater is such a wonderful thing. It’s twofold: It gives you arts in the community, and it gives an outlet for those who are artistic to perform or design or whatever they want to do.”

The dinner buffet is catered by Classic Fare Catering, and Frye said dinner usually consists of salad, several vegetable sides, a chicken dish and a carved meat.

The first show of the season, Faith County, centers around a county fair with all the expected characters and their relationships, both good and bad.

“It’s as if you were born in the South; it’s a place filled with your relatives — the ones you don’t want to talk about,” Frye said. “There’s an arts and crafts competition, there’s an impending marriage, there’s an impending death, and they’re thrown into situations that are just hilarious. It’s just silly Southern fun.”

The cast consists of nine members, and Faith County will be showing tonight and June 12-14.

Later this month, Dixie Swim Club will be the summer season’s next installment. The show spans a period of 33 years during which five women who became friends on their college swim team meet once a year to catch up.

“We’re watching them from their 40s to their 70s, and we see the joys and struggles they face together,” Frye said.

Dixie Swim Club will run June 26-29 as well as July 3 and 5.

The last show of the season is a historical musical about the summer the United States declared its independence from England. With a cast of more than 20, 1776 follows Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams as they do their best to convince the Second Continental Congress to vote for independence.

The large cast consists mostly of male actors, which is expected to create a robust sound in the musical numbers.

“It’s a powerful thing because all of those male voices are big and strong,” Frye said. “We’ve got lots of men from the community who have wanted to be involved. We’ve got a really good cast shaping up.”

Dottie Frye, assistant professor of theater at Harding University, will direct 1776, and Stacey Neely will be the music director for the show.

At all summer dinner-theater shows, dinner begins at 6:30 p.m., and the production follows at 7:30 p.m.

Individual tickets are $27, and a limited number of show-only seats will be available for $15 each. Tickets can be purchased online at www.hardingtickets.com, by phone at (501) 279-4580 or at the box office at the Ulrey Performing Arts Center on Harding University’s campus.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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