Roland’s Galliart takes the stage at Stephens in ACTORS production

Stan Rabe, ACTORS
Nicole Galliart, Kay Mueller, Susan Norris and Nora Rose Sullivan  rehearse a scene from ACTORS production of "The Savannah Sipping Society."

Nicole Galliart of Roland will appear at Stephens Auditorium at the Iowa State Center starting Sept. 17. “The Savannah Sipping Society,” produced by ACTORS, will be presented at Stephens through a special partnering agreement, which is allowing both organizations to keep live theater alive in the city of Ames and to help them avoid staying dark during the pandemic.

The Ames Community Theater, also known as ACTORS, is partnering with Stephens Auditorium to protect audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. By joining forces with Stephens, ACTORS is able to offer plentiful seating with all the protection of social distancing. In addition, audiences and crews will be required to wear masks.  Audiences will see a great comedy, in an amazing auditorium, for the price of an ACTORS ticket. 

"The Savannah Sipping Society" tells the story of four women who are at a crossroads in their lives. When they meet, they discover that they are all looking for more out of life and start a series of adventures that will delight the audiences. Their story is funny, heartwarming and a little crazy. 

Director V~ Dumas-Wines has double cast the show to help ensure that the show will go on. The two casts rehearse separately but are there to back fill roles during vacations, during schedule conflicts and in case of illness.  

“’The Savannah Sipping Society’ has proven to be a challenging show to direct.  However, the script and all of the wonderful ladies have made me laugh nonstop," Dumas-Wines said. “The challenge of double casting is double rehearsing, so the ACTORS Building is stretched to its limits with one cast on the stage while the other cast is rehearsing in the board room."

The Jasmine cast is made up of four ladies who have as much fun rehearsing as the audience will watching. Barbara Gerlach plays Randa Covington, the single and recently fired architect. Covington always put her job first, but now that she is unemployed, she doesn’t know quite what to do. Dot Haigler is played by the ACTORS favorite, Ruthellen Cunnally. Haigler's husband recently passed away leaving her “all alone.” She is feisty and ready to take control of her life. Marlafaye Mosley is the firecracker of the group and is played by Jenn Peter. Mosley's husband recently left her for a dental hygienist, and she reacted by cutting the crotches out of her husband’s business suits.  Rounding out this cast is Tammy Sposeto, who normally is active in the Ankeny Community Theater.  She plays Jinx Jenkins, the cosmetics lady turned life coach. Jenkins leads the ladies through a series of zany experiences. Jana Egan started her theater career at ACTORS and plays Grandma Cordelia. The Jasmine cast will perform Friday, Sept. 18, and Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

The Magnolia Cast brings experience across the cast. Kay Mueller has performed in many shows. From ACTORS and Ankeny Community Theater to Ingersoll Dinner Theater, Mueller is a stalwart veteran of the stage and brings years of experience to the role of Randa. Susan Norris has been active in the Ames theater scene since the Memorial Union Repertoire Summer Theater (MURST). She plays Dot. Nicole Galliart has been active in the Judge Story Theatrical Troupe for many years and is playing Marlafaye. ACTORS and Judge Story veteran Nora Rose Sullivan rounds out the cast as Jinx. Mataya Huling, who normally leads the stage and props crews, is playing Grandma Cordelia. The Magnolia cast will perform opening night, Thursday, Sept. 17, and the Sunday matinee, Sept. 20

“Everyone is so great and I’m having a wonderful time," Barbara Gerlach, who is doing a show for the first time. said with a Southern drawl. "But, it is a little stressful. I know I can memorize all those lines; it is just remembering them on cue that seems to be the challenge.”

Tammy Sposeto said she “is just so thrilled to be back on the boards! I gave up the other activities in my life to be safe and to be on stage. I can hardly wait for my stage husbands from the Ankeny Community Theater to come here see me, and at Stephens.  How cool is that?”

Normally, Nicole Galliart would be doing shows in Story City, but the Judge Story Theatrical Troupe has canceled its season thus far. Galliart submerges herself in the role and show, so having “The Savannah Sipping Society” has provided her an artistic and social outlet. Additionally, she loves the outrageousness of Marlafaye, she said. 

“This has been an interesting challenge because I have a real character, and I have lines — lots of them," said Jenn Peter, who has always done musicals in the past. "I spend part of everyday practicing lines with an app on my phone. People must think I am strange yelling at my phone while driving alone in my car. On the other hand, maybe they don’t.”

Precautions are being taken continually during every rehearsal, production meeting and work session. Masks are required, and special clear masks have been purchased so that everyone can see facial expressions. The casts and crews maintain social distancing except during stage time, when masks are required. Hand sanitizer is available, and surfaces are disinfected. Cast and crew members are encouraged to stay home at the smallest indication of a problem.

Stephens accommodates social distancing in every way possible. While the auditorium seats more than 1,400 guests, social distancing will block every other row of seats. The ticketing system blocks three seats on both sides of every group. The blocking happens when tickets are paid for, so the buyer of seats won’t see it happen during the transaction. The aisles are wide to give lots of space for everyone to get to and from their seats. Finally, there are four entrances and exits at Stephens so that people will not need to wait in line either coming or going. 

“Arts organizations and live entertainment venues are struggling as the pandemic has changed the very essence of what we do and our contributions to the community,” said Tammy Koolbeck, executive director of Stephens Auditorium. “When I read how dramatically ACTORS would have to limit capacity (to accommodate best practices), I called Stan and asked if they would consider Stephens as a performance space as most of our Fall series shows had moved into 2021. Our venue would allow the ACTORS’ audiences to safely social distance and we have protocols in place to mitigate pandemic concerns. ACTORS agreed and it’s a win for both organizations.”

"The Savannah Sipping Society" opens Thursday, Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m. and runs until Sunday, Sept. 20. Tickets are available at ACTORSINC.org and at Alpha Copies in west Ames. First Point members can go to First National Bank for tickets.