All in the Family

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

Back in the 1950s, many families tuned their black-and-white television sets into one particular show each week. It was a gentle, family-friendly comedy that centered around the Andersons of 607 South Maple Street in Springfield – parents Jim and Margaret and their three children, Betty, Bud and Kathy. While Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and their offspring did not always see eye to eye – with comical situations sure to ensue – viewers knew each episode would end on a happy, positive note.

&uot;Father Knows Best&uot; ran from 1954 until 1962. It’s one of the (if not the only) series that appeared on all three of the TV networks. And last weekend, Greenville High School’s Old Gym Players took its audience on a nostalgic trip to a more innocent time…when Father always knew best.

Reading and rehearsing

Wendy Smith, drama teacher and director of Kristin Sergel’s adaptation of &uot;Father Knows Best,&uot; chose seventeen GHS students to fill the roles after open auditions were held in January. Brittany Byrd was one of the hopefuls trying out for a role.

&uot;We all came in one afternoon and got to read a part. She chose the cast from there.&uot;

Byrd was pegged for the role of the always-busy housewife and loving mother, Margaret Anderson. She and her fellow cast members began rehearsals in February, practicing twice a week after school right up until last week, when daily rehearsals were held.

&uot;We’ve been working on our lines in drama class, too, along with the cast rehearsals. It’s a lot of fun.&uot;

Following last week’s dress rehearsal, Byrd, also known for her vocal performances at school talent shows, was looking forward to putting her acting skills to the test.

&uot;I love it, I love it,&uot; Byrd said with a smile.

Fellow junior and veteran Old Gym Player Kris Ferguson, who played the snooty Mrs. Wembley, was also ready for the show.

&uot;You known me, I am always ready to perform,&uot; Ferguson laughed.

Polishing the product

There had been a few glitches during Wednesday’s dress rehearsal – a couple of missing costumes, one missing cast member, and some wrinkles to iron out concerning lighting and sound – but Smith expressed hope all would fall into place by Friday night’s premier performance.

&uot;I’ll have to give them that ‘talk’ – it takes that sometimes, Mrs. Smith cracking the whip,&uot; the director said before giving her cast a pep talk and some important reminders.

&uot;Girls, you are going to have to put electrical tape on the bottoms of your shoes…I can hear far too much noise on the stage up there,&uot; Smith admonished.

&uot;Brittany, be very careful when you are arranging things on the desk – that mike is picking up every little sound…you all absolutely must be quiet when you are in the wings…garden club members, let’s switch the order, Kris’s and Danielle’s costumes are so similar, let’s put Amy in the middle.&uot;

Preparing for a stage production is an exhausting process for all involved: set construction, lighting and sound, director and actors. It’s a real team effort.

Smith and her cast kept their fingers crossed all would go well, even as the weather forecasts painted a stormy picture for Friday night.

And it did go well.

‘An outstanding job’

Though the thunder clapped and the lights flickered briefly overhead during the performance, the cast members &uot;never missed a beat,&uot; Smith said proudly after the show.

&uot;I admit I was a little worried the other day, but I am so pleased with how everything went. The kids did a great job. They are a great group.&uot;

GHS Principal Dr. Kathy Murphy agreed.

&uot;The cast did an outstanding job,&uot; she told Smith after Friday’s performance.

Tyler Ray was fine as the affectionate but somewhat confused father who mistakes his daughter’s suitor for a hoodlum ready to sweep her off her feet.

Byrd excelled as a wife and mom who is often underappreciated by her family (she, unlike her husband, all too well knows where the washing machine is located).

Meghan Branum proved an expressive winner as teenager Betty, eager to impress the cute boy in her class (too bad she doesn’t remember his last name) while William Bates was appealing as her date, Ralph.

Monica Kelley, in pigtails and poodle skirt, was delightful as the effervescent ten-year-old, Kathy. Cory Cummings (in real life leader of the Christian rock band, AXIS) was a natural as Bud. Bud only wants to practice with his band (and avoid his little sister’s pesky friend, Patty, who has a major crush on him).

&uot;That’s just typical of Cory around the house, really…he loves his music,&uot; Cummings’ mom, Lori, said with a laugh as she waited to congratulate her son on a job done well.

Amber Newton and Tiffany Owens, charming in their poodle skirt sand crinolines, played Betty’s buddies, Janie and Ramona, while Susan Nimmer brought smiles as Kathy’s sleep-over pal who proves adept at Bud’s math homework. Brandon Stanton did well as Bud’s friend and fellow band member ( and tormentor of the repair man).

Clark Young brought laughter as businessman Mr. Brinkworth, sleepy and disheveled after an unexpected night in the &uot;pokey.

Amy Tillery, Danielle Hamilton and Ferguson brought smiles as the three hoity-toity garden club members. Chris Malden incited the audience to laughter in his small role as a washing machine repair man, desperate to escape the Anderson’s madhouse. And Heather Blackmon and Mitchell Patton proved &uot;top cops&uot; as Perkins and Officer Johnson hot on the trail of the wayward youngsters.

The drama classes provided set construction while lighting and sound were provided by Jonathon Duke and Tanner Poole.