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Rumors to swirl Saturday for Maumelle Players

By Carol Rolf

This article was published October 29, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.

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The Maumelle Players will present Rumors, by Neil Simon, Friday through Nov. 12 at the Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church in Maumelle. Cast members are, front row, from left, Jerry Green as Ernie Cusack, Jennifer Walker as Cookie Cusack and Jeff Riggs as Lenny Ganz; middle row, Bill Lamb as Officer Pudney, Rhiannon Bax as Officer Welch, Erica Monday as Claire Ganz, Mike Crosson as Ken Gorman and Peggy Cromwell as Chris Gorman; and back row, Brian Tynes as Glenn Cooper and Holly Davis as Cassie Cooper.

— Rumor has it that The Maumelle Players are back in action. That rumor is true.

After being inactive for approximately a year, The Maumelle Players will return to the stage at Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church for their production

of the Neil Simon comedy Rumors, which will run Friday through Nov. 12.

“In 2013, after Harvey, our eighth show at Shepherd of Peace, we had to find a new home,” said Victor Werner, president of The Maumelle Players Board of Directors.

“Jeff [Riggs, board vice president], had worked with Little Scholars Academy previously, so was able to secure space there. We put on five shows there, but in spite of the bigger venue and larger stage, our attendance did not increase. So when they wanted to use the space for other things, we had to find a new home,” Werner said.

“That was a challenge, but Jeff finally went back to Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church, and they welcomed us with open arms. We feel a little like we are going back home, as this is where we did most of our productions since starting The Maumelle Players in 2005. Originally, Roger Frangieh,

who passed away this year, was able to secure the Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church space in 2009. Roger was one of the people with the original idea to start a community theater in Maumelle. We will be honoring him on opening night,” Werner said.

“The church has been so kind to us. They even said we could build a new stage and make it a little higher, which would help the audience see the stage better. They also told us we could build a storage shed out back to keep our set equipment in. They want us back, and we are happy to be back. We were just getting a strong foothold in the community when we had to move out, so we are hoping that being in the center of town will increase our visibility to the citizens of Maumelle,” Werner said.

“To build a stage will cost us about $3,000. I have not priced a shed. We would also like to get temporary risers to improve the audience sight lines,” Werner said. “All of this costs money. We are a 501(c)(3) so donations are tax-deductible. We would even consider putting a banner on the front of the stage if a business wanted to donate the entire cost of the stage.

“So since starting in 2005, we have played in six locations, Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church being the longest. We are excited to be back home and looking forward to a long-term partnership with Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church.”

Jennifer Walker of Little Rock is directing the local production of Rumors, which is comedy — in fact, a farce — about a dinner party gone awry. When the first couple arrive, they find the host has been shot in the ear. They concoct a story about what happened, and that cover-up continues to grow and grow until no one understands what is going on.

Curtain time for Rumors is 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again Nov. 10 and 11; and 3 p.m. Nov. 12. Tickets are $15 for adults; and $12 for senior citizens 65 and older, students and children 16 and younger. Tickets may be purchased online at maumelleplayers.org or at the door. Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church is at 449 Millwood Circle in Maumelle.

Cast members of Rumors include the following:

• Peggy Cromwell of Maumelle portrays Chris Gorman, a lawyer who is married to another lawyer, Ken Gorman.

“My character is the overanxious, highly excitable wife of Ken,” Cromwell said. “She is trying to quit smoking and compensates by drinking. This is a very comedic role.”

Cromwell has been away from the theater for several years. She attended seminary and is now a deacon at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway. She is a retired schoolteacher.

• Mike Crosson of Maumelle appears as Ken Gorman, also a lawyer and a “take-charge” sort of guy.

“Peggy and I play the couple who arrive at the party first and have to figure out how to deal with everything,” Crosson said, smiling. “My character is a little emotional, a little high-strung. About midway through the play, a gun goes off in my ear, and I am deaf for part of the play. It’s a fun play. It’s a great part for me.”

Crosson, who is retired from the Union Pacific Railroad, is a member of The Maumelle Players Board of Directors.

• Erica Monday of Maumelle plays Claire Ganz, the wife of Lenny Ganz. She is very concerned about appearances.

“My character is a mean girl,” Monday said, smiling. “She really doesn’t seem to care about anything. She leaves her husband, who has been hurt in a car wreck. She is really not very nice.”

Monday is a longtime member of the local acting troupe and serves as secretary of its board of directors. She is a physician liaison at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

• Jeff Riggs of Maumelle appears as Lenny Ganz, a wealthy accountant.

“I play a high-profile accountant,” said Riggs, who ,is a longtime member of The Maumelle Players. “My character is very sarcastic in nature. He and his wife are the second couple to arrive at the party and co-creators of the main rumor about what has happened. The first couple create a story, and it just grows and grows.

“This is a very funny show,” Riggs said. “There are a lot of quick-witted lines and several laugh-out-loud moments.”

• Jerry Green of Little Rock portrays Ernie Cusack, a psychiatrist who smokes a pipe.

“My character is married to Cookie, who is really kind of kooky,” Green said, smiling. “My character is very logical, not very excitable, but he does lose it at one point.

“I am a newbie with The Maumelle Players. This is my first time onstage in five years. I am really glad to be able to get back into theater. I was active in the Fort Smith area for more than 40 years.”

• Jennifer Walker directs the show and also appears as Cookie Cusack, the wife of Ernie. She has her own cooking show.

“My character is a little flaky,” Walker said, laughing.

Walker has been in theater since she was a child growing up in Wisconsin. This is her third show with The Maumelle Players. She has previously appeared in productions with Precipice Theatre of Little Rock. Walker is a nurse at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock.

• Holly Davis of Little Rock plays Cassie Cooper, the wife of Glenn Cooper.

Davis, who is a middle-school teacher, said her character is always trying to prove her husband is having an affair.

“She pouts about it all the time,” she said. “I am having fun with this character.”

• Brian Tynes of Mabelvale portrays Glenn Cooper, a candidate for the state Senate who is worried about his own reputation.

“My character is a politician who takes himself very seriously,” Tynes said. “He is running for state senate, but you would think he is running for president. This is a really fun character.”

Tynes last appeared in The Maumelle Players’ production of Gladys in Wonderland. He is manager of the Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store in North Little Rock.

• Rhiannon Bax of Maumelle appears as Officer Welch, a city police officer who does not tolerate lying.

“I play a male character,” Bax said. “He is aggressive, grumpy and underpaid. He is a no-nonsense guy.”

A senior at Parkview High School in Little Rock, Bax has served on the technical crew for several productions with The Maumelle Players. She said this is her first show “with actual dialog.” She has previously appeared in productions with Precipice Theatre of Little Rock.

• Bill Lamb of Maumelle appears as Officer Pudney, Welch’s partner and a “strong but silent” type.

“I play a female officer,” Lamb said, smiling.

Lamb, who is retired, is a member of the board of directors and has been in several productions with The Maumelle Players and is often a member of the set and stage crews.

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