At least one person will be murdered in Lincolnton today as 10 local actors bring to life Billy St. John’s comedic production of “Southern Fried Murder” for the first of six shows this month at the Lincoln Cultural Center.
Directed by local resident Holly Howell, who before this fall had never directed a Lincoln Theatre Guild show, the production features a cast ranging in age from high school teen to adult.
Following auditions in September, the cast got to work quickly, learning lines and running scenes for eight weeks, Howell said.
She felt she could not have chosen a better group of actors to work with, noting the unique team effort and unity among the group.
Set in New Orleans, La., the entire storyline takes place in the dining room of The Towering Oaks Hotel, owned by main character and matriarch “Magnolia Davis Capote,” played by Pete DeGregory, Howell said.
The grandmother of five, including four granddaughters each named some version of “Magnolia” and one grandson “Will Slattery,” has called her family together for the evening in order to reveal to them the contents of her will.
However, the elderly woman has decided to reveal her will through a scavenger-like hunt, Howell said.
During the search to solve the grandmother’s puzzle, one of the characters is murdered early-on, forcing audience members to spend the next 90 minutes trying to piece together two mysteries–the will and murder.
DeGregory considered himself the only cast member “crazy enough” to tackle a role of the opposite sex.
“It’s kind of scary when you think about it,” he said.
DeGregory, whose daughter is also a cast member and whose wife serves as stage manager, dresses up in a pink skirt and blouse for the show along with a purple, flowered hat, pearls, panty hose and pink lipstick.
He described his character as “aloof” and “eccentric.”
For years, he and his daughter, Rebecca DeGregory, who plays the part of “Magnolia ‘Nolie’ Frost,” have acted alongside each other, even being cast in the 2000 Hollywood production of Black Knight, starring comedian Martin Lawrence, he said.
In fact, his entire family of four made appearances in the film.
Rebecca DeGregory laughed as she thought about all the times she’s acted with her father.
“I’ve done it entirely way too many times,” she said.
For her role, the 18-year-old displays heavy makeup and a 1980s-themed costume, calling her character “crazy.”
Anna Crosby, 17, brings to life one of “Nolie’s” many cousins in the play, “Magnolia ‘Stump’ Slattery,” twin sister to “Will Slattery,” played by Lincolnton High School graduate Wesley Beard, who received the school’s first Thesbian of the Year Award in 2010, he said.
Crosby said she had to embrace a character with a personality quite opposite from herself, one in which flirtation and sleaziness is quite common.
A senior at North Lincoln High School, the teen plans to minor in theatre at North Greenville University after graduating in May. Ever since taking on her first acting role in her school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie, Crosby has been hooked.
“I (thought), ‘I want to be in show business,’” she said.
However, the DeGregorys aren’t the only family members involved in this month’s Theatre Guild show.
Father-son duo Carl and Bryan Woolard, who have also spent years acting together in church plays, take on the roles of “Sheriff A.J. Watkins,” whom Carl Woolard noted is both a “hick” and “Southern gentleman” who is “smarter than he looks,” and “Attorney Ben Parker,” described by Bryan Woolard as a “ladies’ man.”
Additional characters in the show include “Magnolia ‘Maggie,’” played by Sheena Forbes, “Magnolia Woods,” played by Lincoln County Cooperative Extension’s Consumer and Sciences Agent Leigh Guth, Hotel Manager “Terry,” played by B.R. Biggerstaff and Holly Howell’s brother and understudy Billy Howell.
Performances will be 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Cultural Center’s Timken Performance Hall, 403 East Main Street in Lincolnton.
Additional performances will be Oct. 25-27.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors ages 62 and up.
To purchase tickets, stop by the Cultural Center, call (704) 732-9055 or visit lincolntheatreguild.com.