KnoxZine
KnoxZine

By: Judy Blackstock

When Jayne Morgan and Staci Swedeen get together, look for the cauldron to boil over with ideas, images, and plans that begin in magical wisps of thought and end in walls of brick and marquee lights.

The two have been friends since the ‘80s, when they met in New York City working as Virginia Slim girls, handing out cigarette samples at Kennedy Airport. Since then they have acted together, as well as solo, in theatre, television, and movies. Their years of rich experience include directing and producing, writing, and teaching.

What was to be next for them? A theatre! Why not develop their own theatre company where they could “present provocative, moving, hysterically funny, unexpected and shockingly good theatre?”

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Staci Swedeen (left) and Jayne Morgan. Photo: Judy Blackstock

Their worthy goal, Flying Anvil Theatre (FAT), has taken over two years to create, and is now ready to birth an opening night.

The hunt for affordable space to house FAT took Staci and Jayne to spooky buildings, worthy of the title haunted. What they ended up with at 525 N. Gay Street was a treasure hidden under years of neglect. Hard work banished cobwebs and a leaky roof, and left behind a lobby with an art deco light to die for and polished original flooring.

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In between acting, teaching, and raising money, Morgan and Swedeen were gung-ho to have a grand opening just as soon as work on the theatre was completed. Undecided on which play would be the initial offering, a call for auditions was put out by word of mouth and social media. The actors came with a prepared monologue, followed by readings from one of three plays the duo was considering.

Both Staci and Jayne love the Tony Award nominated, Venus in Fur, written by David Ives. There are only two characters. Carolyn Corley portrays Vanda and J.D. Sizemore plays the role of Thomas.

J.D. Sizemore and Carolyn  Corley star in Flying Anvil Theatre's inaugural production Venus in Fur. Photo: Steve Drevik.

J.D. Sizemore and Carolyn Corley star in Flying Anvil Theatre’s inaugural production Venus in Fur. Photo: Steve Drevik.

The play is provocative and funny, two words from the theatre’s mission statement. After watching run-throughs of the play I think Venus in Fur lives up to those adjectives splendidly. One word that keeps flying out of Jayne’s mouth when she is asked what the play is about is SEX. It is adult material for mature audiences.

With the actors cast, other important roles had to be filled to make all the pieces fit in this production. Anjana Dixon, who “was willing to do anything, like hand out programs,” is Assistant Director. Stage Manager is Terry Pfeiffer and Set Design is the responsibility of Vicki Sparks, a handy woman with a drill. Costume Design rests with Susan Bourdeau and Sound Design is Mike Ponder who produces magnificent thunder. Lighting Design is Adam Baranowski with Will Dunklin as Sound Board Operator.

I became involved, thinking it would be interesting to follow a play production. Every line of work, no matter how creative, is WORK. This became apparent very quickly as I tracked Jayne’s movements. Rehearsals aren’t just about words, but include decisions made on timing of dialogue, placement of props, and acting instructions.

Time outside rehearsals involved lots of physical work. When you are non-profit, working on a slim budget, you put miles on your car and any truck you can rein in to round up building materials, risers, and chairs.

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Details rule the lives of the production crew as it gets close to show time: signs for parking, artwork placed on walls, volunteers to sell tickets, props on their exact spot, press releases, and toilet paper in the restrooms.

While everyone does their work, they are nagged by the reality that this is not yet a permanent home for FAT.  Money is needed for a long term lease so requesting donations is an important item on their agenda.

One day after Jayne muttered that the lighting had come in over budget, I asked her if she had any qualms about this venture. She gave a hysterical laugh and said, “Have any qualms? Qualms are all I have!” She and her cohort, Staci Swedeen, also have the professional chutzpah needed to make this play and The Flying Anvil Theatre a success.

SHOWTIMES & TICKETS

Preview: Thursday, October 31 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $20 ($15 if you are in costume).

Gala Opening: Friday, November 1 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $35. (Includes after-party).

Other performances are November 2 and 3, November 7-10 and 14-17.

Evening shows are at 7:30 PM, Sunday matinee on November 3,10 and 17 at 2:00.

Admission for these performances is $25.  

Discounts available for groups of 15 or more by calling (865) 312-2458.

Reserve and purchase tickets through KnoxTIX at www.knoxtix.com or by calling 865-523-7521. Tickets are also available at the door.

© Judy Blackstock, 2013.

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