Clara Wimberly, 18, from left, Luke Schofield, 14, Logan Young, 15, and Colby Passman, 13, rehearse a scene from Thorton Wilder’s  “The Skin of Our Teeth” at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church. The Jefferson Street UMC Youth Group will be performing the play Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Clara Wimberly, 18, from left, Luke Schofield, 14, Logan Young, 15, and Colby Passman, 13, rehearse a scene from Thorton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church. The Jefferson Street UMC Youth Group will be performing the play Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Annual dinner theater delivers timeless message

Published 12:05am Sunday, April 20, 2014

Members of the Jefferson Street United Methodist youth group intend to bring a comedic play about the determination of mankind to continue thriving with the guidance of a Higher Power to the stage during the group’s annual dinner theater.

For the past 28 years, members of the Jefferson Street UMC Youth Group have been performing entertaining plays with a message.

And year 29 of the performances will live up to that standard when the youth group members present “The Skin of Our Teeth,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama written by Thornton Wilder.

Wimberly, left, portraying Maggie Antrobus, and Sarah Rodriguez, portraying Sabina, rehearse.
Wimberly, left, portraying Maggie Antrobus, and Sarah Rodriguez, portraying Sabina, rehearse.

“Our mission is to not only entertain, but to provide an entertaining drama that has an timeless message to it or one that is tracking the lives of men and women of faith who have sacrificed greatly,” said John Hudson, youth group coordinator and play director. “This play serves as a great teaching and learning tool for those involved to be exposed to some great literature, but also for everyone involved to hear the tremendous message in this play that’s so different than some of the messages we hear today.”

The play is a three-part production about the life of mankind, centering around the Antrobus family of the fictional town of Excelsior, N.J.

The play, Hudson said, combines farce, burlesque and satire depicting an “everyman family” as it narrowly escapes one end-of-the-world disaster after another ranging from the Ice Age to the Great Flood.

“The family has a crazy resemblance to that of the first family — Adam and Eve,” Hudson said. “The great thing about this play is that it does a delightful job of entertaining while providing moral lessons based on theme, which is really that mankind will survive and endure and prevail with the hand of the divine guiding us.”

Cathedral High School junior Trey Hand plays the role of George Antrobus — husband, father and occasional rag doll for the leading ladies in the production.

“I’m sort of their chew toy for everyone in the play,” said Hand, laughing. “He’s basically like Adam, but I wouldn’t say it’s the lead role, because most of the play I get yanked around by everyone else.”

In the play, George Antrobus and his wife, Maggie, have been married for 5,000 years and have two children, Gladys and Henry, who bear a striking resemblance to Cain and Able.

The family’s talkative maid, Sabina, who can only be described as an eternal seductress, joins the family and is a bit promiscuous, said Trinity Episcopal Day School senior Sarah Rodriguez. Rodriguez shares the role of Sabina with Cathedral student Maggie Kelley depending on the night of the production.

Part of Sabina’s role in the play, Rodriguez said, is to convince George to leave his wife and run away with her, which leads to zingy one-liners and a number of crazy situations.

“This character is very much outside of who I typically present myself as, but it’s been fun trying to kind of put myself in her shoes and figure out the character,” Rodriguez said. “This year has required a lot more time than others because there are far more lines than I’ve had in the other plays, but it’s been such a unique experience.”

The time commitment and increased dialogue is something Natchez High School senior Clara Wimberly, who plays the part of Maggie, also said she struggled with at first. Wimberly shares the role of Maggie with Cathedral student Rachel Benoit.

“Last year was different when we did ‘Narnia’ because those were just songs you had to remember,” Wimberly said. “Now, all my lines are in long paragraph form, and it’s just taken me longer to memorize everything.”

Only memorizing lines to recite them, however, is something the play director advises members against.

“I always tell them I don’t ever want them to memorize something if they don’t understand what it means,” Hudson said. “When you get to see that lightbulb click on and see them have that ‘aha’ moment, that’s why I enjoy doing this.”

The countless hours of practice and preparation, Rodriguez said, will all be worth it when the youth group members take to the stage this week.

“The most fun for me is that first night because I’m always concerned about how it’s going to come out, but it’s really exhilarating,” she said. “It also brings all of us closer together because we’re spending three hours a day, six days a week for a while, so it provides a really cool experience of camaraderie.”

The dinner theater will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday and 6:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the family life center at the church, which is located at 511 Jefferson St.

Tickets are $16 for adults; $12 for youth ages 10 through 18 and $5 for children.

Along with the production, a dinner of pork loin, wild rice medley, sweet green beans, parker house rolls and apple crisp will be served.

Nursery care is provided.

For tickets, contact a Jefferson Street youth member, call 601-442-3795 or email requests to jeffersonstreetdinnertheater@gmail.com.