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SCT sets performance of competition show

January 9, 2011

Marianne Ulmer, left, and Terry McDowell) share an emotional moment in "The Dixie Swim Club."

By BRIAN HAWKINS
sdneditor@bellsouth.net

Starkville Community Theatre is hoping to continue its winning streak at the Mississippi Theatre Association’s annual festival and will be offering a special preview performance of the play being entered into competition this Tuesday night.
SCT is reprising a hit production from its 2009-2010 season — “The Dixie Swim Club” by Dick Marcott — as its entry into this year’s MTA festival, which is being held this coming weekend at Mississippi State’s Riley Center for the Performing Arts in Meridian.
A preview performance of the show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mississippi State’s McComas Hall. Tickets for the show cost $25 per person, and a reception will follow the production.
“The Dixie Swim Club” is the story of five Southern women, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team. The five gather for a weekend every August at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh, and meddle in each other’s lives and  to recharge their relationships.
The action of the show focuses on four of those weekends over a 33-year period.
The show stars the following:
• Marianne Ulmer as Lexie Richards, a true Southern belle who lives in Chapel Hill, NC, is the vain youth obsessed event planner for a chain of 4-star hotels.
• Cindy Ruff as Jeri Neal McFelley, the ditzy ray of sunshine of the group who is perky and naive and always sees the positive side of everything.
• Debbie Dunaway as Sheree Hollinger, the perennial, hyper-organized team captain, who is practical, supportive and a fount of boundless energy.
• Terry McDowell as Dinah Grayson, a lawyer who is the wise-cracking cynic of the group and has fought her way to the top and relishes the view.
• Madeline Golden as Vernadette Sims, a self-deprecating public school teacher who is a hard luck case if there ever was one.
As the friends’ lives unfold, they increasingly rely on one another, through advice and raucous repartee, to get through the the trials and tribulations life flings at them. 
When fate throws a wrench into one of their lives, these friends rally around their own with the strength and love that takes the comedic play in a poignant and surprising direction.
What’s interesting about taking “Dixie Swim Club” to competition is that the performers are doing an abbreviated version of the show. Competition rules allow 10 minutes to put up the set, 60 minutes to perform the show and 10 minutes to take down the set, said Lyle Tate, who is directing the production.
“It was a definitely a tough challenge to get a 60-minute cut out of this show, but it was a group effort. The whole company worked on it together,” Tate said. “We’ve got a cut that keeps the story and the emotion intact, as well as the humor.”
When originally staged at SCT’s Playhouse on Main a year ago, one of the things that made the character portrayals strong was the real-life friendships among all the women in the cast. In the abbreviated version for MTA competition, those portrayals are intact, Tate said.
“The ladies have worked hard to create real personas,” Tate said. “No matter what happens with competition, we are giving a good picture of what SCT does well, and that’s fun, believable talent with realism.
“I feel strongly that the women should be real, and the cast has done that.”
MTA’s competition schedule for community theatres begins Friday night and continues Saturday and Sunday. SCT’s competition performance of “The Dixie Swim Club” is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the Riley Center, which is located in downtown Meridian.
“We’d love to have some Starkville folks come down and be in the audience that afternoon,” Tate said.
SCT has won the Warren McDaniel Award for Best Production at the MTA Festival for three of the past four years. SCT performers, directors and crew members have won numerous awards at the festival in recent years.
For more information about the MTA Festival, visit the MTA website at http://www.mta-online.org.

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