Friendship in life and death is the theme of this delightful comedy as three Jewish women meet once a month to visit their husbands’ graves. “The Cemetery Club” was made into a movie in 1993 starring Olympia Dukakis, Diane Ladd and Ellen Burstyn.
The women in this production are compared to “The Golden Girls” of the old TV sitcom. Each character is at a different stage in their widowhood. They deal with their loss in their own way but as they visit once a month for tea and a cemetery visit they also joke, laugh, irritate each other and sometimes cry.
The character of Ida is played by Haroldean Thompson, who was last seen on the Gem stage in “Showtime at First Baptist.” Most of the play takes place in Ida’s living room where the women discuss their marriages, their past and their futures.
Ida tries to explain to the women why she feels she must move on with her life. Thompson plays Ida as the “peacemaker” with the women. She has been the anchor through the course of their friendship.
Elaine Baker plays Doris, who had a long, steady marriage and has no desire to change. She visits her husband’s grave on the fourth anniversary of his death and says, “So, what’s happened since we spoke last?”
She is devoted to his memory and Baker will not let the audience forget it either. Baker is a Gem Players veteran and last appeared in “Showtime at First Baptist.”
The role of the flamboyant and humorous Lucille is played by veteran player Virginia Orr. Lucille’s husband was unfaithful in their marriage.
As she visits his grave reluctantly with the others she casually tells him how she spends his money and the good times she is having since he has died.
Orr is having a wonderful time with this character but she has given Lucille a big heart that will break the audiences’ hearts in her closing speech. Orr was also last seen in “Showtime at First Baptist.”
Veteran Gem player Gary Bowman returns to the Gem stage as Sam the butcher.
Sam is a widower who meets the women while visiting his wife’s grave on their 30th anniversary. He becomes attracted to Ida and they agree to a date.
This causes all kinds of problems and jealousy for the women and Lucille and Doris decide to interfere. Bowman gives Sam a shyness and awkwardness that is believable to his character.
Bowman was last seen in the Players’ dramatic production of “Twelve Angry Men.”
Sam turns to another woman after Lucille and Doris discourage him from dating Ida. The other woman is Mildred and is played by Leneda Laing. Mildred is Sam’s date to the wedding that he invited Ida to, but then he shows up with Mildred to pick the women up for the wedding.
The chaos that happens when Mildred steps into the group is enough to cause the women to rethink their actions toward Ida and Sam.
The time that Laing is on stage is just enough time for her to make everyone uncomfortable but she does it with such innocence and flair! Laing was last featured in the hit comedy “First Baptist of Ivy Gap.”
“The Cemetery Club” celebrates the bond of friendship and love that three women share over the course of a lifetime. Each age of their lives has its own beauty, disappointments and even loss. We all need friendship to help us through life and gently through death.
“The Cemetery Club” is directed by veteran director and actor Rick Parker with technical design by Ruth Sowers. Set design is by George Rose and Treavor Johnson.
Tickets for The Cemetery Club are $12 for adults and $10 for children under 12 years of age.
Tickets may be purchased in advance at The Town Squire Menswear on Keith Street in Cleveland, Southern Heritage Antique Store on Tennessee Avenue in Etowah and at the box office one hour prior to show time.
For more information, call 423-263-3270 or visit our website at www.gemplayers.com.
Gem Theater is located on Highway 411 in Etowah across from the historic L&N Depot.
Bluegrass Festival to be Aug. 26, 27
The 17th annual Linsdale Bluegrass Festival will be Aug. 26 from 7 to 10 p.m. and Aug. 27 from 1 to 10 p.m. at Linsdale Community Service Center, Chestuee Road. Either weekend passes or a ticket for a day may be purchased. Bring lawn chairs.
Support for the festival is provided by Tennessee Arts Commission and the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association. The Linsdale Community Service Center is a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers.
Featured bands — Between the Lines, Valley Grass, Just Us, Reliance and One Way Track — will perform in the big covered building, rain or shine. Cindy Studdard and Stacy Wilson will operate the sound system.
Camping in the rough will be free, with clean restrooms and showers. Hookups will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for a fee. No drugs or alcohol permitted. Call 423-338-5538 for more information.
Barbecue chicken plates will be served on Saturday only, but plenty of good food will be available on both days — pinto beans, cornbread, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried pies and other homemade desserts.
From Cleveland, take Highway 64 east, turn north on Highway 411 and follow signs; or, take Highway 11 north to 163, turn east, then south on County Road 968, and right on Chestuee Road.
For more information, call 423-338-5608 or 338-2396.
Beersheba Springs Festival Aug. 27, 28
The 45th annual Beersheba Springs Arts and Crafts Festival will be Aug. 27 and 28 at the Beersheba Springs United Methodist assembly grounds. The festival is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Beersheba Springs is located on U.S. highway 56, 18 miles from McMinnville and 25 miles from Monteagle.
There will be around 130 exhibitors from several states with arts and crafts to display and sell.
Several new food booths will be on the grounds, with a variety of delicious food. The hotel dining room will serve breakfast and lunch each day.
Entertainment will be provided on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Proceeds from the festival will be used for the Beersheba Springs Library, Beersheba Springs Rescue Squad, the Community Center, Grundy County Center for Exceptional Citizens, North Elementary School and food baskets.
For more information, call 931-692-3733.