Footlight Players open season with 'Golden' favorite

2012-07-27T00:00:00Z Footlight Players open season with 'Golden' favoriteBy Tim Shellberg Times Correspondent
July 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Christopher Whybrew says he can relate to the tensions and conflicts depicted onstage in his production of the beloved family drama, "On Golden Pond."

"It plays true to several generations," said the director of Michigan City's Footlight Players' production. "I'm getting up there in age now, and I can remember fights with my parents and I can also remember fights with my children. There's a lot more meat to it then, say a British farce."

Opening Aug. 3 and kicking off Footlight's 63rd season, "Pond" is the tale of elderly couple Norman and Ethel Thayer, whose annual summer pilgrimage to their Maine lake house finds unexpected guests in their daughter, Chelsea, and their grandson, Billy.

Penned by Ernest Thompson, "Pond" made its debut on Broadway in 1979. Two years later, it was a big screen smash, with Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn taking home Oscars for their portrayals of the elderly Thayers and Jane Fonda receiving raves as daughter Chelsea.

"Pond" returned to the Great White Way in 2005, Starring James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams as the husband and wife.

"The connection between Ethel and Norman still plays well with older generations, people in their 50s to their 70s, and I think that's the biggest draw," Whybrew said. "And younger people are more in tune between Norman and his daughter, because there's distance and a little tension there."

Robert W. Komendara and Laura Meyer, both from Michigan City, portray Norman and Ethel Thayer respectively in Footlight's "Pond" and are joined onstage by Sherry Sweeney, from Hobart, as Chelsea and Mike Stantz, from Michigan City, as Billy. Rounding out the cast is John Avila, from Michigan City, as Chelsea's fiancée, Bill.

For Whybrew, whose been active with Footlight Players since he was a teen, helming "Pond" gives him an opportunity to work with Meyer, another Footlight veteran.

"Laura was pretty active (at Footlight) probably 20 years ago, and we got her back (for 'Pond'), and it's good to have her back," Whybrew said. "It's nice to see old members come back, and we've got new people (in the play) as well, so it's pretty exciting."

On opening night, Footlight Players will induct Players member Dorothy Kelly into their Hall of Fame. Additionally, a reception for the play will follow the Aug. 5 show at Blink Art Gallery, 1709 Franklin St., Michigan City.

Next up for Footlight Players is a production of Alfred Hitchcock's "The 29 Steps," scheduled to open at Footlight Theatre on Oct. 5.

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