‘Southern Exposure’ to take stage Friday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2011

Greetings, Natchez and the Miss-Lou! Spring has sprung, I hope, and Natchez Spring Pilgrimage starts Saturday, bringing back to the Natchez Little Theatre stage for the 50th year, the classic 1950s romantic comedy about Natchez and the Pilgrimage, “Southern Exposure.”

Performances are at 8 p.m. every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evening throughout Spring Pilgrimage March 12 through April 16.

There will be a final 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17 show. Tickets are $15 and should be reserved by calling the Natchez Little Theatre, located at 319 Linton Ave. at Maple Street at 601-442-2233, toll free at 1-877-440-2233 or online at www.natcheztheatre.org. There will be a benefit/preview performance at 7 p.m. Friday as a fundraiser for the Natchez Firefighters Association and tickets for that performance are $10 with all proceeds going to aid the brave men and women of the Natchez Fire Department.

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Owen Crump, the author of “Southern Exposure,” was a prominent television writer when he visited Natchez for Pilgrimage in the late 1940s and fell in love with Natchez, the Pilgrimage and parodied them in this delightful comedy that opened on Broadway in 1950.

“Southern Exposure” had its Natchez premiere in 1951 and has been an annual part of the Pilgrimage since 1964, with over 1,300 performances for 50 years and an audience of well over 300,000.

“Southern Exposure” has an exciting cast of veterans and newcomers making up two casts.

Penelope Mayweather, the owner of Mayweather Hall is played for the first time by Yvonne Murray and Carolyn “Tootsie” Yelverton takes on that same role for the 11th time; Lynn Mann, who has won two acting awards for playing Penelope is understudying this season; Avery Randall, Penelope’s banker/cousin is Rusty Jenkins and Layne Taylor.

P.J. Forrest, making her NLT debut, and Rose Temple portray tour guide Mary Belle Tucker; Jonathan Douglas, a.k.a. John Salguod, is played by Derrick Garrity and Trey Price. Penelope’s young cousin, Carol Randall is Arden McMillin and Kayla Kelly; and Carol’s domineering mother, Emmeline, is played by Laurie Williams and Nicki Kelly.

Appearing as Australia, Miss Penelope’s hilarious housekeeper, is Rho Baker, who also cast and assistant directed the show; and Alethea Baker.

I am playing Benjamin Carter, John’s New York publisher and some of the tourist roles for all performances.

Playing the multitude of tourists who wreak havoc on Mayweather Hall are Nicholas Carroll, Scout Earls, Sydney Eidt, Jasmine Floyd, Matt Fontenot, Christina Givens, Joanna Johnson, Alanna Kelly, Akua Kumi, Morgan Mizell, Brooke Stanley, Ann Sternberg, April Temple and Anne White.

I am the director of the production and designed and constructed the sets.

Tommy Jackson, Layne Taylor, Rho Baker and James Wesley Forde will run lights and sound for the production.

Not many communities are as fortunate as Natchez is to have such a delightfully, popular play written about them.

NLT’s greatest compliment is the large numbers of patrons, both local and from around the country that return year after year to see the subtle changes to the production that keep it fresh, entertaining and the audiences rolling in the aisles.

If you haven’t seen “Southern Exposure” during the 50 years it has been produced at Natchez Little Theatre, this is the year to do it.

Next year, for the first time in 49 years “Southern Exposure” will not be NLT’s production for the Natchez Spring Pilgrimage as a world-premiere musical, “Shut My Mouth” based on “Southern Exposure” will debut in 2012.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see this Natchez tradition one last time!

Hope to see y’all at “Southern Exposure!”

Don Vesterse is the Natchez Little Theatre technical director/general manager and director of “Southern Exposure.”