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Hardin County Playhouse actors tell a story of scandal in a Texas town when they present “Sordid Lives,” which opens tonight.
In the play, set in the late 1990s, scandal erupts after Peggy Ingram dies in a seedy motel room, actor Jorge Lopez said.
As the play develops, this incident triggers a chain reaction that changes her entire family.
The play is a comedy, at least on the surface, actor Ron Blair said, adding it doesn’t fit into to any conventional genre.
“The audience can expect to laugh uproariously, uncontrollably at some points, but by the time we’ve taken our bows they’ll have also been challenged by several real-life issues such as tolerance, morality and familial connections,” he said.
On some levels, actress Meggan Heady said, the play is sad. She’s found herself laughing out loud and then realizing it is sad and wondering why she’s laughing.
“But life is like that, one minute we are crying our eyes out and then the next minute we are laughing about it,” she said. “Isn’t that how we cope and get through life, by finding the humor in it?”
Each actor has a different approach for becoming another person on stage.
Lopez plays Ty Williams, an actor living in New York who loves his family and struggles with telling them he is gay. To relate, Lopez used his personal struggle with weight and “tried to imagine how hard it must be to put on a face and not be who you are.”
Heady plays Ty’s southern and proper mother, Latrelle.
“She’s a very in your face type of person who is fast paced, likes to control the situation and has a flare for the dramatic,” she said.
To prepare for the role, Heady studied the movie based on the play and drew ideas from people she has known in her life.
“I’m sure most people have a Latrelle in their own family,” she said.
Brother Boy is played by Blair. His character has spent 23 years in a mental asylum for wanting to dress like a woman. He has a fondness for country singers and dresses like Tammy Wynette, director Bo Cecil said.
Blair uses the same process for developing his character in every production.
“Over time I get to know the character, consider his background and then develop empathy with that character in order to understand why this person is as he is during the particular time the show takes place,” Blair said.
After all the work during rehearsals, on opening night, there’s excitement and a little trepidation, actors said.
The rush of performing in front of people and bringing them into the world of the play is what excites Lopez. But he sometimes worries that his performance won’t be strong enough or that he’ll mess up the production.
It’s a fear shared by Heady. She sometimes is afraid of messing up and letting down her fellow actors or director.
“I think of these people as family and it is always hard to let your family down,” she said. “I also get scared that people aren’t going to like my work and I really want the audience to enjoy the show.”
Even though taking the stage makes her nervous, it’s a big adrenaline rush.
“The stage is like an unknown place every time you go out there because you never know exactly what is going to happen,” she said. “But I guess most of all I love getting the opportunity to entertain people.”
Blair has been acting for 25 years and doesn’t get as nervous or scared anymore.
“If I were going out naked or taking part in a hatchet throwing display, I’d be scared,” he said.
But he still gets excited about opening night and seeing how the audience reacts to the performance.
“One of the greatest things about theater is that the gratification is instant and, just as no two performances are the same, no two audiences are the same,” he said. “It’s fun to play off the different energy each audience brings.”
The play is intended for mature audiences and includes strong language and adult situations.
“Sordid Lives” runs 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Feb. 14-16 and 3 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 17 at the Plum Alley Theater in the Historic State Theater Complex. For tickets or more information, call (270) 351-0577.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or email@example.com.