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By BECCA OWSLEY firstname.lastname@example.org ELIZABETHTOWN — The Hardin County Playhouse will take the audience back to an old-time gospel sing in 1938 Mount Pleasant, N.C., in its rendition of “Smoke on the Mountain.” The play is a lighthearted musical comedy. “I don’t think we could have picked a more appropriate piece for what’s going on in our nation right now with the economic downswing,” said Dee Corkran, who plays Vera, the matriarch of the family. “This is actually set in 1938 in the middle of the depression and all these people are there lifting each other up as all of us should.” Audience members get to participate in the play because they are the congregation of the church and are encouraged to sing along and participate. The actors play their own instruments and while most were knowledgeable of music, none were considered accomplished musicians. A few knew how to play and others, such as Sarah Ryan, who plays Denise, learned to play banjo for the part. Along with the banjo, the mandolin, ukulele, viola, acoustic bass, guitars and piano will be played by the actors on stage. This was the biggest challenge, Corkran said. First time HCP cast member Chris Nall, Burl in the play, sings in a southern gospel trio and felt his part was a comfortable fit. He has played the electric bass before, but is getting used to playing an acoustic one. Nall is also not used to singing and playing at the same time. The other two members of his trio auditioned for the play but did not make the cast. Instead they play the persnickety Ms. Maude and Ms. Myrtle, who are referred to throughout the play, and find themselves a part of the audience. Another unique facet to their production is the roll of “the other Denise.” The script called for twins named Denise and Dennis but Jeff Corkran, who directed the piece, didn’t have an actor to play Dennis, so the part became “the other Denise” played by Moira Taylor. Taylor is excited to play opposite her real life sister Sarah Ryan. They are not twins, but as sisters, they haven’t had the opportunity to act together since they were in high school. The family in the play acts as if having twin daughters both named Denise is perfectly normal, which may give the audience a little bit of a hint about this particular family. Each family member gives a testimony throughout the play which leads to some comical moments until it is June’s turn. June, played by Janie Ogg, doesn’t really sing with the group but signs her own version of sign language to the songs the family sings. She is considered the “special” one in the family. In the end, June’s testimony is the most meaningful of all the family members in the show. To Corkran, that moment proves that everyone has a place in God’s kingdom. The small cast is rounded out by Brandon Stearsman, playing Mervin, and Jeff Corkran, who not only directs the piece this time around while Bo Cecil is on a sabbatical, but also plays Uncle Stanley in the production. The entire cast has fallen in love with the play and the family members they portray. They hang around after practice to talk about the piece. “It’s fun and we love it,” Dee Corkran said. “If people don’t come into the theater and leave feeling better than they came in, then there’s something wrong with them.”
IF YOU GO
“Smoke on the Mountain” will show at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Dec. 12 and 13 and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 13 and 14 at Plum Alley Theater. Tickets are $13 for adults and $12 for children, seniors and groups. For tickets or more information go to www.hardincountyplayhouse.com or call (270) 351-0577. Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.