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Lights. Camera. Laughter

Turners provide script for community theater’s latest production


BY MOLLY HAINES RIDDLE

Sweet Owen Contributor


Dale and Marianne Turner’s interest in theatrical arts long predates their arrival in Owen County. The couple, originally from Union, Kentucky, frequently visited Cincinnati to attend performances during their 49-year Boone County residency.

When the Owen County Council for the Arts began auditions for “A Mayberry Christmas” in 2017, the couple signed up hoping to volunteer for the production’s choir. Director Faith Clifton had other plans for the duo.

“I play the part of Aunt Bea,” Marianne said. “And Dale plays the part of Briscoe Darling.”

“Ms. Clifton chose us for those two roles instead of the choir,” Dale added. “She said she felt we would do well in them, and the rest is history. We’ve had a blast doing it.”

The 2023 performance of “A Mayberry Christmas” marked its fifth year in production (halted in 2020 due to the pandemic), with tickets for each time slot quickly selling out. The production’s success has left many involved wanting more, but as Dale points out, acquiring a script is more complex than a quick Google search.

“The people here were really interested in (Mayberry), and they were having a good time, and the people on stage were having a good time,” Dale said. “But the problem was that to purchase a play, you have to follow the script to the word, so there’s little leeway. The play is written, you buy it, and the people perform and have very tight guidelines.”

With the intent to offer the Council a production free of artistic restraints, Dale began reflecting on his own life’s experience to author a play to be performed locally this spring. The end result, “The Hunting Trip,” is set for performance Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20.

“The Hunting Trip” follows the antics of five men on an annual getaway. Three of the friends have a tradition of setting off on what outwardly is a hunting expedition—though, in reality, it is the furthest thing from it. The journey takes an amusing turn when familial obligations come into play: one man’s wife insists that her son-in-law be taken along for what she assumes is a genuine hunting experience.

Upon presenting the play to the Council, a new set of problems arose.

“At first, I think the (Council’s) response was, ‘Wow, OK. We’ve got this. Now, what do we do with it? No one here knows how to produce or direct a play,’” Dale said. “Then Veronica Gayle and Pat Pearce stepped up.”

Confident the play would become a hit, Gayle and Pearce took an eight-week course offered by the Shelby County Community Theater. Under Jack Wann’s tutelage, the pair better understood what it takes to produce a play successfully. Upon completion of the course, the two contacted Dale to confirm their interest in the production. The Turners modified the play’s draft before it was copywritten and turned over to the Council. 

“I told (the Council) up front, ‘It’s your play, do with it what you want,’” Dale explained. “They said, ‘Well, how much do you want?’ I said there’s no charge; just have fun with it and make people laugh. That’s all we wanted.”

Auditions were held in December, with Blake Gaines, Bryan Starns, Travis Duvall, Jason Wainscott, Aydon Tisdale, Tommy Osborne, Rita Osborne, and Leah Swain making the final cut. Although the Turners are not acting in the production, Gayle said the two have remained faithful to “The Hunting Trip” from day one. 

“They’ve been with us every step of the way,” Gayle said. “They’ve been to almost every rehearsal. They’ve been readers whenever someone was missing and willing to step in however we needed with the creative process of filling in the gaps with different parts of the play.” 

Nearly all of the cast members are new to the world of theater, including Travis Duvall, a lineman for Owen Electric Cooperative, Inc. 

“I was actually asked to audition for the play,” Duvall said. “I really don’t bring much experience to the play other than my background as a hunter. I told my brother-in-law I would do it if he would; it’s been a fun experience so far. I can’t vouch for my talents as an actor, but the play is for a good cause, and I’m glad to be a part of that.” 

With new blood taking an interest, Gayle and the Turners say the future is bright for local theater. 

“Our goal is to create an active, lively community theater for Owen County,” Gayle said. “This is like our maiden voyage, the first step in that, as far as taking it to the next level.” 

“The Council’s looking for directors, writers, and actors,” Dale added. “They would love to have a list of names they could pull from and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a play. Would you guys come down and read through it?’ So, getting theater in Owenton is a huge goal, but it’s something that we’re shooting for.” 

DALE TURNER JOINED THE CAST of “A Mayberry Christmas” for its inaugural performances in 2017 and has continued to play the part of Briscoe Darling since. His wife, Marianne, plays the part of Aunt Bea. The production’s success led the Turners to author a play, “The Hunting Trip,” which will be performed in the Owen County High School auditorium April 19-20.

When playing Mayberry’s Briscoe Darling, Dale said the most crucial aspect of his performance is to make others laugh, a quality he carried with him while writing “The Hunting Trip.”

“I tried to make a play . . . that doesn’t have a purpose,” Dale explained. “There’s no hidden message in there, nothing like that. It’s just a sit-down and laugh type of thing.” 

The Hunting Trip has two scheduled performances: 7 p.m. Friday, April 19, and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 20, in the Owen County High School auditorium. It has a runtime of approximately 65 minutes. 

Tickets for the performances are available through the Owen County Council for the Arts Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61557323220525.

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