Southern comedy “The Savannah Sipping Society” coming to West T. Hill Community Theatre in May

Published 11:00 am Friday, April 23, 2021

West T. Hill Community Theatre is showing a Southern comedy centered around four middle-aged women in Savannah, Georgia, at the start of May. The show is called “The Savannah Sipping Society.”

Show times are May 7-8 at 8 p.m., May 9 at 3 p.m., May 14-15 at 8 p.m. and May 16 at 3 p.m. Tickets are available on West T. Hill’s website and are currently for sale.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be limited seating, with 30 audience members permitted per show, and masks and social distancing will be in place for the audience. Other COVID-19 guidelines are on West T. Hill’s website.

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Director of the show Chuck Taylor said the play is written by Jamie Wooten, Jessie Jones and Nicholas Hope. The women in the play are all unique and don’t have much in common, other than the fact they are middle-aged women. They begin as strangers and become good friends, helping each other through personal struggles along the way. Taylor said West T. Hill has featured the writers’ work before, like “Southern Hospitality” and “Christmas Belles.”

“They kind of write more like home-spun Southern-type comedies,” he said.

Taylor said since the play a comedy, he hopes it will help give the audience a sense of normalcy and “take your mind off things.”

“I haven’t personally been to watch a play in a year and a half, probably,” he said. “And I really like that. It’s one of the things I enjoy in life. So I really miss it, and I’m hoping other people have missed it too.”

This is the first show Taylor has directed at West T. Hill.

He said the theater chose the show with him as director last year, prior to COVID-19 shutdowns. However, he had already done some work for it and was asked to pick the show up again this year. He didn’t hold auditions for the play since the pandemic would have added a “layer of complexity.” So for the roles he chose cast members with whom he already was familiar, including his wife, Julie Taylor.

The actresses are Julie Taylor playing Randa Covington, Lori Shepherd playing Dot Haigler, Mary Carol Porter playing Marlafaye Mosely and Hillary Zimmerman playing Jinx Jenkins. There’s also a small role played by a fifth cast member, who is also a woman.

Julie Taylor has acted in plays before — that’s how the Taylors met, was playing in a show together. She also previously taught drama at Boyle County Middle School, and she now is the librarian at Boyle County High School. She has directed a play at West T. Hill, too. Zimmerman is an art teacher in the Boyle County School system, and Shepherd is a nurse in the Jessamine County School system in Nicholasville. Porter has done “quite a bit” of theater, Taylor said, and it’s been fun working with her and the other cast members.

Taylor said there’s a great chemistry and familiarity between them. He hasn’t directed a show in a few years, he said, so he’s immersed himself in the show and has “talked shop” with Julie Taylor about it at home since they both love theater.

Since he’s a man directing women, he said he keeps the cast members’ suggestions in mind for how a woman might behave in a given situation and when his stage directions might need pointers from their perspectives. They’ve been vocal, and stage directions and other decision making has been a collaborative process, he said. The cast members have also played a large role choosing their costumes for the play.

“It’s definitely not like a gig or a job — it’s what I like to do, and we’ve been having fun doing it,” Taylor said.