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‘Barbecuing Hamlet’ comes to Phenix City stage

Friday is opening night for the first play of the inaugural Phenix City Performing Arts Series.

"Barbecuing Hamlet" will be performed at 7 p.m. at Phenix City's Central Activities Center.

Audience members are encouraged to bring their own dinners to the show. Barbecue, perhaps?

"Barbecuing Hamlet" is about residents of a small town who decide to perform the Shakespearean play "Hamlet" in an old West setting.

The play doesn't name the small town or state in which its residents live but director Lou Smith said Phenix City serves as a fine backdrop.

When it was decided that Phenix City would have a Performing Arts Series, Ricky Thornton, director of programs and activities for the Phenix City Parks and Recreation Department, asked Smith to direct the first show.

Smith gave Thornton four scripts for consideration. After reading them, Thornton said he knew that playwright Pat Cook's "Barbecuing Hamlet" was the "one."

Smith, a fan of Cook, has previously directed Cook's "Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner."

Several of the cast members have worked with Smith at either the Vagabond Players theater company or the Family Theatre.

Local attorney Rick Chancey plays the lead role of the prince of Denmark.

He likes performing "Hamlet" with an old west theme.

This is Elaine Lupo's first show in the Columbus/Phenix City area, but she did theater for a long time 30 years ago.

"This cast," she said, "is a family. You hear about that all the time, but it is."

Belinda Baker plays a schoolbus driver, which is her job in real life.

Typecast?

"I think so," Baker said. "It's me. It's like it was written for me. It's art imitating life."

Also in the play is Michael Thorne, who had no aspirations to act until his 5-year-old son was cast as an Oompa Loompa in the Family Theatre's production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Thorne had to drive his son to and from rehearsals and ended up filling in for an actor. He got hooked and now he's auditioning for every play he can.

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