A ‘Proper’ look at Columbus: Springer Opera House presents 'Lakebottom Proper'

When the Springer Opera House opens “Lakebottom Proper” tonight, audience members may feel like they know the characters and have visited the places featured in the play.

In fact, one could say the star of this play is Columbus.

The fictional story focuses on a couple who want to send their daughter to Brookstone School. Dad Tad (played by Adam Archer), is an attorney at Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis & Rothschild. Mom Rowena (played by Katie Deal) is a social climber. And 8-year-old daughter Portia (who never actually appears in the play) is a trouble maker. The family lives in Lakebottom Park.

Does it sound familiar, yet?

Springer artistic director Paul Pierce said the play has some buzz around town. In the last few weeks he’s been getting notes from long-time Columbus residents who are anxious to find out if they are mentioned in the play.

Pierce wouldn’t give away any secrets, but the cast and crew didn’t seem worried about hurting anyone’s feelings.

“I think if they are not mentioned, they will be offended,” Archer said.

Actress Kelli Franklin agrees. “Whether you live in Lakebottom or anywhere else, nothing is offensive. It’s funny.”

Pierce has incorporated his 25 years of Columbus knowledge into the play with the help of Atlanta playwright and actor Topher Payne, 31.

“Paul is like a walking encyclopedia of Columbus,” Payne said. “(Pierce) started sharing all these interesting tidbits about Columbus.”

Revealing some of these tidbits and anecdotes on stage should make for interesting conversation during intermissions and after performances, Payne said.

As a native of Columbus, actor Ben Reed said he sees a lot of Columbus represented in the play. But Payne, who grew up Kosciusko, Miss., said the themes are so universal that they could have happened anywhere.

“These are a group of people trying to balance the traditions of the past with the realities of modern life,” Payne said. “It is relatable to Columbus, but it’s not unique to Columbus.”

In fact, the play is scheduled for a run in Atlanta in September at the Process Theatre.

“This will be a tremendous end to a fabulous Springer Opera House season,” Pierce said. “It’s been a rare and wonderful season. This is the icing on the cake.”

What’s it about?

Archer describes his character Tad as an easy-going but motivated man who wants to become partner at his law firm. “He loves his home, he loves his wife,” Archer said.

Tad’s wife, Rowena, is a social-climber, who has been trying to get Portia into Brookstone since the little girl was 4 years old. She’s been turned down for four years.

“Rowena is fiercely determined,” Payne explained. “But she’s not a bad person. Rowena just wants Portia to be part of the Brookstone legacy.”

To improve their chances of having Portia accepted, Tad and Rowena decide to throw a party for Christi Dunbar-Rhodes (played by Kelli Franklin), who is president of the Brookstone Parent’s Association.

“In Rowena’s eyes, Christi is Portia’s last hope of getting into Brookstone,” Deal, who plays Rowena, said.

The couple hopes to get on Christi’s good side by plying her with liquor.

Another party guest -- Arlette Dunbar-Rhodes (played by Haley Rice) -- is a career woman who works at Synovus. Her daughter goes to Brookstone.

Tad and Rowena desperately want to make a good impression, but their quick-witted, wise-cracking housekeeper, Mrs. Kelley (played by Cynthia Barker) and Rowena’s mother Ethelene (played by Jo Howarth) seem determined to ruin the party.

“Ethelene is completely different from Rowena,” Howarth said. She arrives at the party in a rusted-out old pickup truck, and she shows no desire to help her daughter climb the social ladder.

Lakebottom Park

The characters in the play make a big deal about living on the “right” side and the “wrong” side of Lakebottom Park. They define the “right” side as the side on which Columbus High School is located.

Pierce says he lives on the “wrong” side.

Before they started rehearsals, the entire cast piled into a van and took a ride through Lakebottom Park.

“That was part of the fun, showing the ‘good side and the other side’ ” Pierce said.

Archer laughed at the notions of good and bad. “Eighty-five percent of people on the ‘wrong’ side have nicer homes than where I live,” he said.

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