When the metaphorical curtain rises for Theatre 98’s new comedy, “Four Old Broads,” on Jan. 20 it will become one more recent high note for first-time director Jeff Lovingood. A few months back, he became director of purchasing for Escambia County, Florida. The upswing is welcome.
“It’s all been wonderful so far,” Lovingood said during his daily commute home to Fairhope.
The Virginia native has taken to Gulf Coast life by stretching his community and cultural efforts across adjacent counties, which straddle two states. His theatrical explorations go back to Pensacola Little Theatre productions, including their Studio 400 series described as “non-traditional works … edgy, experimental experiences, alongside locally written and produced pieces.”
That said, it’s Fairhope’s Theatre 98 (350 Morphy Ave.) where Lovingood found the most work, having been a part of around a dozen productions. He started onstage with acting stints, but that shifted during a turn on “Godspell” when its director, Richard Foster, tapped Lovingood to be assistant director/stage manager. The rookie has leaned on old sages, previous directors with advice for his maiden voyage. Like his questions about casting.
“What are you looking for? Do you go by the inner picture of a character you built when you read a script? Or do you make up something on your own based on what you see from the auditions?” Lovingood said. He lauds the support network.
He’s excited to kick off a Theatre 98 season heavy on comedy at a time when he believes people are eager to laugh. Baldwin County’s notable retiree population might relate to the “Four Old Broads” setting of a Southern senior community, with at least one Elvis impersonator and a former burlesque queen among its numbers. So, “Golden Girls”-with-a-G string, let’s say.
“We don’t have any octogenarians in the cast, but they’re all age-appropriate, 60s and up,” Lovingood said.
The cast includes a couple of Theatre 98 regulars, but also some new actors. For the Elvis impersonator, this is his own “comeback special” since it marks the actor’s return to the stage after 23 years.
The play isn’t a warhorse — this is its first time at Theatre 98 — and its performance elicited an unexpected pleasantry: gratitude from Leslie Kimbell, its Atlanta-area playwright.
“It was just a thank you note for doing the show and wishing us luck on the production,” Lovingood said.
The stage has become a Lovingood family focus. His wife serves on Theatre 98’s play selection committee.
“My 16-year-old son is helping me as a stagehand, coming to rehearsals with me. It's been a superb experience,” Lovingood said.
Shows are mostly sold out, but theater personnel recommend another way in. Call 251-928-4366 or email email@example.com to get on standby.
“We often have no-shows and last-minute cancellations so you would more than likely get in that night,” they posted on social media.
Theatre 98 has roots burrowed nearly a century back and this iteration was incorporated in 1983. Atop all that longevity, Lovingood sees a greater elevation of craft in its future after what he called a “transformation.”
“There’s a new stage manager for the house, there’s a new production manager, and the lady doing the lights and sound and things has just come on board,” Lovingood said. “This is the start of a really good thing for the theater. They’ve got some great people in place.”
For more on the play, go to theatre98.org.
Trailblazer signs memoir at Haunted Book Shop
Ann Bedsole’s name is emblazoned in state history. From her birth early in the Great Depression, she rose to become the first female elected to the Alabama State Senate, then moved into the State House.
In Bedsole’s new memoir, “Leave Your Footprint,” she detailed her voyage from a timber mill to being named a 2002 inductee in the Alabama Academy of Honor for her “achievements and contributions to the state.” The author will be on hand for a book signing at the Haunted Book Shop (9 S. Joachim St.) on Jan. 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Bedsole is scheduled to spend 30 minutes meeting and chatting with visitors before she starts signing books.
Following her bicameral career, Bedsole built a reputation for patronage and philanthropy. She helped found the Alabama School of Math and Science and the Sybil Smith Village. She has been affiliated with the Mobile Homes Tours, the Alabama Historical Commission, the Mobile Historical Development Commission, the Mobile Bay Lighthouse Committee, the J. L. Bedsole Foundation and the Alabama Contemporary Art Center.