GHS grads win big at NY drama festival
Audrey “Leigh” Redick Cefaly and Carolyn Messina may not be household names yet. But these long-time chums, fellow drama students and 1986 graduates of Greenville High School have earned some high honors for their creative talents in New York City's competitive stage world.
Produced by The Riant Theatre, The Strawberry One-Act Festival has been called “the ‘American Idol' for playwrights” by The New York Daily News.
The competition features more than 40 one-act plays in a competition each summer in New York City.
Van Dirk Fisher, founder and artistic director of the festival, began the festival 11 years ago to “provide a nurturing environment to develop new projects and showcase artists.”
After several weeks of performances at the Producers Club in NYC this summer, the dozens of plays in competition were narrowed down to 20, then 10 , then down to a final four.
On August 20, Leigh's play “Fin and Euba, ” featuring Leigh and Carolyn in the title roles,
was selected “Best Play” of the festival.
Messina was chosen “Best Actress.” The award ceremony and performance took place at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre at Symphony Space on Broadway and 95th Street.
Leigh's mother, Charlene Redick, her twin sister, Eve, friend Amy Wilson, Carolyn's mother, Judy Messina and aunt Linda Frederick, all made the trip to the Big Apple to be there for the final performances and awards ceremony. It was an event Judy describes as “ a lovely event and an exhilarating time,” complete with a celebratory meal at a Greenwich Village restaurant following the ceremony.
The hometown girls made their folks proud.
“The girls gave really strong performances – though I am, of course, a little prejudiced. But they did do great,” Judy said with a laugh.
“While the play is set in the south and features southern characters, it has universal themes that struck a chord with the audience…the difference between dreaming and wanting, and deciding whether to go for something else, or just settle for what's safe,” she added.
Set in a paper mill town in the Florida Panhandle, “Fin and Euba” revolves around two best friends who work at the mill and share living space in a boarding house. With a tyrannical landlady who adores kitschy yard art to contend with, the two friends spend time contemplating their escape and future plans.. Unbeknownst to Euba, Fin sends some of her amateur photos to “Life.” A reply arrives – but Euba is afraid to open it.
“The play has some very funny moments, and also some very touching ones. The audience really responded to it well,” Judy said.
Leigh admits she was “rather stunned” the duo went on to take top honors at the festival, but says it would have been worth it all even if no accolades had come their way.
“Getting to act on stage again with Carolyn was one of the biggest thrills of my acting career. We totally felt the other one was going to catch us if we fell,” Leigh said.
“I think those 20 years of history I saw in her eyes made the friendship between Fin and Euba so authentic and effortless…Carolyn even carried a copy of The Greenville Advocate on stage with her. How's that for coming full circle?”
Carolyn said, “I was so proud and excited to not only be working in New York, but to be working with one of my dearest friends from Greenville and her beautiful script…I can't even journal!”
“I am so proud of these girls. The remarkable thing is to have two Greenville High School graduates both winning such high honors. It's wonderful,” Roberta “Bobbie” Gamble, the duo's drama teacher at GHS, said.
Gamble cheered on and encouraged her two former students via phone calls and e-mail.
“Having Ms. Gamble in our hearts, knowing she had prepared us for this incredible journey, really centered us,” Leigh said.
“It was so cool to have Miss G on the phone giving us encouragement just like back in high school,” Carolyn added.
“Back in our high schools days in Greenville, we had people like Priscilla Davis, Millie McDonald and Bobbie Gamble teaching us the necessity of art. Our developing love for the theater was fueled by the passion of our teachers.”
“Fin and Euba,” set in a paper mill town in the Florida Panhandle, revolves around two best friends who work at the mill and share a space in a rooming house. Between their landlady's tyrannical ways and her love for kitschy yard art, the two friends are ready for a change. They sit on the front prorch and contemplate their lives and plans to escape.
Unbeknownst to Euba, Fin submits Euba's amateur photos to “Life” Magazine . A reply arrives – but Euba is too nervous to open it. Is it fear of failure, or fear of success?
One day Leigh hopes to bring the award-winning “Fin and Euba” back to her hometown.
“I would love to be able to put on this play at the Ritz. Now that would be the ultimate thrill.”
Learn more about “Fin and Euba” and Leigh's other plays at her website, www.audreycefaly.com.