Michaela Moore, director of the Juneau-Douglas High School play “Dearly Beloved,” is out to bring a little light into the world.
“Lately in the world, we don’t laugh much,” she said.
While she likes directing tragedies just as much as comedies, Moore said that she chose to put on “Dearly Beloved” because she wants to give the audience an evening of unencumbered fun.
The play is set in the imaginary Texas town of Fayro and follows the Futrelle sisters in their quest to put on an over-the-top wedding which, of course, goes awry. Everyone in town has their own agenda for the wedding, and secrets and schemes abound. When the intended bride and groom flee town, the sisters scramble to hold off the dismayed wedding guests with, of all things, a talent show.
While the play is topically about the sisters’ and townspeople’s antics and their various side stories, Moore said that the story is primarily about relationships.
“It’s about families and friends,” she said. She encouraged her group of actors to work as an ensemble on stage, listening to and playing off of each other. “We mainly just focused on relationships and getting the relationships right.”
Moore had previously put on a play by the same authors, Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, to great response from both the audience and the high school students she was working with.
“There’s something about these writers,” she said. “They’re just a lot of fun and it’ll be an evening of really good laughs for everyone.”
Moore is also focused on making sure that her actors have as good of a time putting on the play as the audience does watching it. Not all of this group of high school students have worked together before, but Moore said that they have come together throughout the course of the production. The students, she said, have enjoyed the fellowship and camaraderie that comes from working together so closely for the months they spent planning and rehearsing.
The students tackled the behind-the-scenes parts of the production, too. The drama productions are fully self-funded through their ticket sales and fundraisers, so the students have developed a do-it-yourself attitude.
“The kids and I sat down and we talked about the costume needs,” Moore said about working with the students on the backstage parts of the production. “The kids have pulled together their own costumes this time. It’s been really fun for them individually and fun for me.”
The set is simple, just some tables and chairs, which made it easy for the students to get involved. Moore said that it makes them feel empowered to put effort into the entire production.
“They’ve had a good time putting their own signature on things,” she said.
Moore said she is “in awe” of how hard the students have been working to bring their characters to life. “Dearly Beloved” has some long lines that are difficult to memorize, Southern accents to master, and characters in their 40s and 50s.
As a Texan herself, Moore was able to help them get the specific Southern dialect exactly right.
“Southern accents are different depending on what state you come from,” she said. “It’s been really different for some of them. I’ve caught some of them continuing to talk in the accent during the day.”
High school student Clare Boily will be kicking off the production of “Dearly Beloved” as Miss Geneva Musgrave, a cranky older woman with a no-nonsense attitude. Kayla Kohlhase will be playing both Tina Jo Dubberly and Gina Jo Dubberly, twins with opposite personalities. Honey Ray Futrelle, the oversexed matriarch of the family, will be played by Kate Bergey. The youngest, but most dramatic, Futrelle sister Frankie will be played by Katie Kiernan, and her long-suffering husband “Dub” Dubberly will be played by Quinn Gentili. Molly York will play Twink Futrelle, the good-intentioned but desperate middle sister. Amanda McDowell will play Nelda Lightfoot, the local psychic, Dylan Rice will play the sweet and in-love Justin Waverly, and William Tolles will play John Curtis Butner, the highway patrolman. Wiley Hicks, Twink’s boyfriend of 15 and a half years, will be played by Dakota Morgan, and Patsy Price, the well-to-do widow and future mother-in-law, will be played by Adele Hagevig.
Moore encourages everyone who wants an evening of laughs to come and see “Dearly Beloved,” opening this weekend.
“The plot to the play is so fun,” she said. “The kids bring a lot of energy and light to the play.”
“Dearly Beloved” will be May 10, 11, 12, at 7 p.m., and May 12 at 2 p.m. at the Juneau-Douglas High School. Tickets are $15 general admission, and $10 for senior citizens, students, and children. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books and through the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.
• Jack Scholz is a freelance writer living in Juneau.