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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dixie Actors Form Ties That Bind

Dixie Swim Club (L to R): Anne Craft is team captain “Sheree;” Erin Osgood is self-absorbed “Lexie;” Debra Rockey is the hard-luck “Vernadette;” Kandi Krumins is na├»ve ex-nun “Jeri Neal; and Julie Yolles is hard-boiled attorney “Dinah.”

If you are lucky, you have made some friends in this life that you know will always be there for you.  Perhaps you met in school, and maybe you don’t even see each other that often, but whenever you do you pick up right where you left off without missing a beat.  These “best friends forever” friendships are what make life precious.  You can tell your BFFs the truth, even when it hurts, and you can share in each other’s triumphs and tribulations.

The five women in the Dixie Swim Club portray characters that share such friendships.  In fact, the actors have bonded so closely that their mutual admiration makes for a richer experience onstage.  
Two actors were kind enough to share some self-realizations and also some personal reflections about their fellow cast mates.  Anne Craft said, “If you know anything about me, you know I am Sheree.  She says the same things I say so I didn't have any trouble getting the tone or emphasis of her words.  I have been accused of organizing the lives of other people.  I have been guilty of making decisions for other people and deciding what was best without consulting them.  I run a tight ship in the make-up room and have firm rules about the costumes.  I have been labeled as ‘particular’ which I think is a nice way to say I'm bossy and a little mean.  Some people are scared of me.  I wish Sheree could be more sexy, or enjoy alcohol more, be a funnier character or perhaps be more naive.  But she is pretty straight and plain.  I see myself as having that same demeanor. I think Sheree is a likeable character and once you get to know her you see how genuine she is.  The same could be said for me.  It isn't necessarily easy playing a character so similar to yourself.”
   
Of her fellow actors, Anne observed that “Erin's character (Lexie) is very over the top at times, and she takes the spotlight whenever she can.  Kandi's 77-year-old Jeri Neal is fabulous.  She has the stiffness and shakiness of an elderly person.  Debra is a true storyteller.  Her tales of woe are meaningful and you can see that her character is sad about her life, but won't let that get her down.  Julie found a routine and her professionalism shines through.  She plays Dinah perfectly.  I think as a whole, I have learned that each woman is truly dedicated to the craft and to this show.  In Dixie I have learned that while my character is the least glamorous, I am a necessary character and need to be the straight gal in order for the other four to shine.”

Debra (a/k/a “Rockey”) notes that “each actor is cast perfectly to her persona.  Erin is Sexy Lexie.  Anne is extremely organized.  Julie was born with an ego and to be a diva.  Kandi is as authentic and whole as they come.  I always see the comedic side of life.”

While Rockey has befriended the entire cast, she feels that her character Vernadette connects the best “with Lexie, because I am the anti-Lexie – the total opposite of all she is and stands for. I also connect with Jeri Neal, because of her vulnerability and honesty. Combine these characters behaviors and you have Vernie - she is as comfortable in her skin as Lexie is in hers.  And Vern just tells it as it is – ‘what you see is what you get.’” Rockey is quick to note that “I also love Dinah and Sheree - as the team and the experience would not be the same without them.”

How does the real life Rockey relate to her character Vernadette?  Rockey said, “I was never the cute girl, or the popular girl, or the rich girl growing up.  I relied on my wit and boldness to get me through situations. No matter what is thrown in my path, I charge ahead.  So ... my pre-30 days were all Vernadette-building.  After 30, I figured out that this personality worked very well in the business world, so I let 'er rip!”

The Dixie Swim Club concludes October 25th – 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kandi Brings Out Sweetness in her Dixie Alter Ego

Kandi Krumins is all sweetness and light
 as the fun former nun, Jeri Neal McFeeley

Kandi Krumins’ character in the Dixie Swim Club is Jeri Neal McFeeley, a former nun who has been called a “ditzy ray of sunshine.”  Kandi admits that she “struggled, at first, to find Jeri Neal.  In real life, ditzy women rather annoy me, and sometimes Jeri Neal says some things that sound ditzy. However, she's just naive.  I had to learn to give her a break, love her for who and what she is, and watch her grow into herself.”  

Kandi brings creativity and imagination to her portrayal of Jeri Neal, whose character really matures (literally and emotionally) during the course of the play.  Jeri Neal goes from pregnant nun, to unwed mother, to the bride of a younger man during the course of the play.  And with each scene, Jeri Neal grows up a little more.  As Kandi says, “Jeri Neal is the positive thinker in the group that's full of sunshiny love.  She's also the late bloomer in the group, off to a later start than her friends, but continually makes choices throughout the show that surprise them.  What I enjoy most about Jeri Neal is her ‘cup is half full’ way of looking at life.  No matter what happens, she ends up being positive; the one who reminds everyone about the good in life.”

Kandi’s own positive outlook is a great fit for Jeri Neal, and sometimes it’s hard to know who is rubbing off on whom.  Kandi “believes that if you truly ‘get into’ a character, you have the ability to take some part of that character with you and incorporate it, if you choose, into your own personality.  That said, the more I play Jeri Neal, the more I'm thrilled to have gotten her role!  I think that most of us could use a little more Jeri Neal in our lives.  I hope to keep as much of her alive as possible when the show's over.”

Kandi “wanted to be in the Dixie Swim Club because they are a diverse group that loves each other despite their differences.”  She finds it “humorous that the cast seems to be as diverse in real life as we are on stage, but that we still have a great bond.  In many ways it feels like we HAVE known each other our whole lives.  As we have spent increasingly more time together, the show has come more and more to life. Playing off my fellow cast members' emotions has become a rush.  I also find it humorous how Tim and Rick, being fine actors themselves, have become more of our ‘coach’ and ‘assistant coach’ than director and assistant director. After voluntarily directing a cast consisting of five diverse, headstrong women (and we are), they both deserve medals of their own.

Kandi last graced the Barn stage a year ago as the adult Jean Louise Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

The Dixie Swim Club runs through October 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955. Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.”  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This Rockey’s a True Fighter


Debra Rockey (right) plays Vernadette,
who bonds with her swim club "sisters"
including Erin Osgood (left) as Lexie
That Debra Rockey goes by her last name might not surprise you. “Rockey” suits her personality and physical presence to a tee.  But what’s even cooler is how well her name fits her character in the Dixie Swim Club.  Rockey plays Vernadette Simms, a true fighter and survivor if ever there was one.  In Dixie, five college swim teammates reunite at an Outer Banks beach house for a girls-only weekend every August that is always full of fun, fights, and twists of fate.  

Rockey offers comic relief as Vernadette, a hard luck case who has a deadbeat husband, a felonious son, and a daughter who bounces between cults.  Rockey describes Vernadette as “a solid woman - physically and mentally.  I think Vern knows that the way you make God laugh is by telling him your plans.  She just keeps on going through everything that is sent her way.  Nothing will get Vern down and what keeps her going are her swim club, her biscuits, and her memories.”

Despite her bad luck, as Rockey says, “Vernadette is a survivor. She may not be the cutest character or the best dressed or have any waist (she hasn't seen hers in years) but she is as solid as a rock. And, she lives for August in the Outer Banks with her four fabulous friends.  It is the one thing that she can count on - the team that always wins, in and out of the water.”  Similarly, of her fellow actors, Rockey says, “I love my ‘swim team’.  We have been working together for several months now - filming the videos, eating, rehearsing, eating - and it feels like we have known each other for twenty years. Each of us are magically a living version of our Dixie Swim Club self.   Typically I perform musical theater, so it has been a bit strange to be on stage and not singing my heart out.  But know that on the inside, I am singing - 'cause I'm just thrilled to be a member of this great cast and to share this story with our audience.”  

While this is her Barn debut, Rockey has performed throughout Michigan – in Grand Rapids' Civic, Circle, and Actors Theaters, and Novi and Ann Arbor Civic Theaters.  She has also appeared on Detroit's Boxfest and Second City stages.  Favorite productions include Annie, Sweeney Todd, The Producers, Anne of Green Gables, Baby, and Divine Stella Divine.  Her favorite roles so far are "Stella" in Follies, and rich "Lady Cucuface" in Madeline.  

The Dixie Swim Club runs October 5th – 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

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