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ACT's 'Foxfire' gives glimpse into lifein Appalachia

January 6, 2012
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

Considered a character-driven slice of a fast-disappearing American way of life, Alpena Civic Theatre's "Foxfire" is set to open next week.

The show stars Karen Thompson and Chip Lavely, who last appeared together on stage in "On Golden Pond," and newcomer Gerard Ahlgren. Thompson's character is a 79-year-old widow, who has lived her entire existence in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Through a series of flashbacks, Lavely plays her deceased husband, Hector, while Ahlgren is their country-music singer son.

The plot finds a real estate developer, played by Teresa Drake, trying to convince Annie to sell her property in the interest of putting up a vacation resort.

Article Photos

News Photos by Diane Speer
Appearing in Alpena Civic Theatre’s upcoming production of “Foxfire” are, from left, Chip Lavely, Teresa Drake, Gerard Ahlgren, Rosina Phillips, Karen Thompson and Nicholl Perkins. The show is set in 2008 in the mountains of Georgia.

Nicholl Perkins, another newcomer to the ACT stage, appears as a young school teacher recently returned to the mountains to teach. Rounding out the cast is ACT favorite Rosina Phillips, who plays the role of the midwife.

"I saw the film on the Hallmark Channel and was so taken by it," said Lavely, who in addition to performing in the show is also serving as director. "It's such an endearing story, that I knew I had to bring it to Alpena. It brings drama and comedy and even a musical section with local country musicians on stage."

The musicians performing in the show include Kim Dahl, Jerry Keen and Allen Konicek.

Lavely said he has always been a big fan of Hume Cronyn, who teamed up with writer Susan Cooper in 1980 to write the original show, and Cronyn's wife, Jessica Tandy. "Foxfire" opened on Broadway in 1982, with Cronyn playing Hector and Tandy playing Annie, a role for which she won a Tony Award.

As if directing and acting in the show weren't enough, Lavely also took on the extra duties of set design and costume design. The set features a "grove" of live pine trees, a log fence and a cabin, all against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains painted by set artist and assistant director Nancy Mead.

Helping out as set construction director was Adam Pieczynski and as set assistants were Steve Hornback, Ron Ross, Robert Sylvester and Robert Sylvester III.

"When I designed the set, I knew I had to create the Stony Lonesome (name of the homestead) and as I've done in so many plays, I put in a surprise," Lavely said. "Hopefully with the beautiful backdrop of the mountains painted by Nancy Mead and the fencing and the trees, the audience will immediately be drawn into the warmth and greenery of the Appalachians."

Other key production team members include Jeannie Pines as stage manager, Michael Pisarski as back stage assistant, Jim Phillips on lighting design, John Pines as lighting technician, and Jeannie Pines and Mead on props.

Lavely also credits his producer, Evelyn Hunter, with helping to pull the production together.

"The show couldn't have been done without the talents of Evelyn Hunter, my friend and collaborator and cohort," he said. "I won't do a show without her."

Hunter and Mead teamed up with Lavely as well on the costuming. Picture board is by Bronwyn Woolman and Fran Hamp, outside sign by Jack Thompson, program by Carol Witherbee, publicity by Hunter and Robert Sylvester, and box office/ticket manager as Fran Hamp.

"The show is a message play about basic American principles and family. The word that really captures it is 'endearing,'" Lavely said. "We all hope Alpena will support the play and tell their friends about it."

"Foxfire" opens next Thursday and runs Jan. 12-15 and Jan. 19-22. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call the box office at 354-3624.



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