Showtime for Mattie the Maid! (Almost)

Three years ago, I made my theater debut as Jeri Neal McFeeley in the Dixie Swim Club. I had a blast! You can read about it here.

This year, I’m Matilda, a member of the housekeeping staff at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Neil Simon’s California Suite. Our director, Lisa Woodward, was kind enough to add the part for me and my fellow actress, Susan. You can see some of our props in the photos.

What we do with those props during the play is a whole different story (and our secret for now). If you live in the area, do come to the performance. These are the showtimes:

Here’s the link to the Orange Community Player’s website, where you can buy advance tickets. (You only really need advance tickets for the Saturday night dinner theater.)

I haven’t gotten my costume yet, but my guess is that it will look something like this:

I’ve always hated making beds, but so far, making beds as Mattie the Maid is tons of fun. Just as long as I don’t trip and really break a leg…



Downsizing: Let the Show Go On!


The downsizing continues at our house!

I’ve donated items to our local relief agency. I’ve provided auction items for the Burwell School, an historic school here in Hillsborough. I’ve sent vintage clothing to the Theater Development Fund in New York. The fund supplies costumes to theater groups across the United States. I’ve taken cartons of books to our library’s book sale.

And here’s my latest project!

Orange Community Players is putting on Arsenic and Old Lace at the end of February. They needed fuddy duddy antiques for the set. (That’s my choice of words). The set’s creator, Bob Sharp, called. “Barbara, we thought of you. Do you have furniture we could borrow?”

Did I! Bob came and picked out chairs, an old dresser to serve as a sideboard, and a Victorian settee.These are pieces I don’t plan to move to the new house. Then it hit me: Someone in the show, helping with the show, or attending the show might want to buy a piece of my furniture. So I offered Bob a deal. They help sell my furniture (word of mouth and a note in the program), and the money will go right to Orange Community Players.


I  did a Facebook post of the furniture leaving my driveway. We’ve got a sale of the needlepoint chairs! Thank you, Robin.

We’ll see if the rest of the pieces sell. Hope so! But no matter what, it’s going to be fun to sit in the audience and admire antiques that have served me loyally over the years. I just hope soon, they’ll serve someone else who will love them too.


The Theater Development Fund accepts donations of clothing for their wardrobe collection. Email them, and if you have items they want, they’ll pay the postage. Read more here.


My Theater Debut: The Show Went On!


The show went on for four performances, and I loved every minute.

The Dixie Swim Club is the story of five friends from a college swim team who spend a weekend each August on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I played the part of Jeri Neal McFeeley, described in the script book as “a ditzy ray of sunshine.”

In the photo above, I arrive at the beach house eight months pregnant. This shocks my buddies because the last time they saw me, I was a nun.

I really shake up the weekend by going into labor. Sheree, our team captain in the striped shirt, takes control of the situation.

In Labor

Scene Two opens five years later. The lawyer, our friend Dinah, is coaching me for job interviews, without much luck.


A few minutes later, I model the interview dress Mama made for me. It gets a fast thumbs down from the other girls. Dinah says I look like “an upholstered footstool.”

Frumpy Dress

Then I try on a dress that Lexie, the sexpot in the show, thinks might work for my interviews. Vernadette (wearing a clown suit and also the show’s real director, Lisa Woodward) announces I look like a “hooker with a stolen handbag.”

Pink Dress

In Scene One of Act Two, I’m newly married to a younger man. I have to fuss at Brice because he wants to talk sexy on the phone. I’m worried one of the girls might hear (and one does, much to my embarrassment). Here I am below, later in the scene, pondering the hurricane that is quickly brewing off the Outer Banks.

Contemplating the Hurricane

In the last scene, with one of our five beloved friends now dead, we gaze at the ocean from the cottage window. We’re 77! Lexie, never one to give into aging, dons a blonde wig.

I messed up some lines, but not too many, and I did not trip, faint, or spill the martini glass of milk Sheree hands me after I arrive pregnant. I’m not headed to Broadway, but I received lots of compliments. Thanks, everybody!


And thanks to all of your for your enthusiasm, to Cliff and my friend Bernie for their encouragement, to my friends who came to the show, and to the cast and crew of The Dixie Swim Club. Hats off to Lisa, our director;  Debbie, our stage and sound manager (below); and Bob, our producer.


I’m going to miss Jeri Neal and the other colorful characters. I’ve saved the sticker from my dressing room chair, the pink bathrobe and the frog slippers, and an ocean full of happy memories.

Jeri Neal Sticker


My Theater Debut: The Elephant Purse

Elephant Purse


In our production of The Dixie Swim Club, I jerk this purse off my shoulder and slam it to the ground. How fun is that? To get to be mad, real mad, and act on it by doing something we aren’t supposed to do in real life.

At rehearsal, I’ve found myself starting to tug on the shoulder straps in anticipation of the line that infuriates me. I want to be ready to throw that purse!

No good. I can’t react until it actually happens. I have to wait until the character says the line, until she announces that I look like a “A hooker with a stolen handbag.”

Ah. Another life lesson from the stage. Don’t spend your days worrying about things yet to come. Don’t react until it happens. Don’t borrow trouble.

I’m pretty much in the worrier category. Not off the charts, but firmly on that side. And worrying can make you miserable.

The non-worriers are no help. They say things like “Why worry? You can’t change what’s to come.”

Their words make me worry more.

I don’t know what the secret is to not worrying. I googled, “How not to worry” and found lots of articles. Here’s a good one from the Huffington Post that includes a powerful quote from Corrie Ten Boon: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorry. It empties today of its strength.”

In recent years, I’ve started to worry a bit less. The wisdom of menopause? A new found courage? Maybe.

But I still worry. I still tug on those shoulder straps before the line is delivered

What about you? Do you worry more or less than you did years ago? Any tips for the rest of us?


The Dixie Swim Club

If you’re local, here’ s the link to the Orange Community Players website.  Don’t worry. It’s easy to buy your tickets online. Come watch me throw that elephant purse!


My Theater Debut: Stage Lessons


Cast of the Dixie Swim Club

Rehearsals of The Dixie Swim Club are in full swing! Since I first landed the part, I’m having a blast and have learned lots about life on stage from Lisa, our director and Debbie, our stage manager.

  • Don’t turn your back to the audience.
  • Don’t stroll or meander across the stage. Every move is deliberate.
  • Don’t block another actor.
  • Don’t cover your face.

I realized these lessons can apply to life off stage, too.

  • Don’t hide yourself away.
  • Live with intention.
  • Value others.
  • Practice boldness.


I’m working hard at memorizing my lines. Starting January 5, we may NOT bring our scripts to rehearsal. It’s been a great exercise for this menopausal brain.

And I’m doing my best to inhabit my character, to become Jeri Neal McFeeley, ex-nun. Now out of the convent, she makes some bold choices.

In one scene, Jeri Neal models a low-cut, short, pink dress. Her friends declare the dress much too young for her, announcing that Jeri Neal looks like “a hooker with a handbag.” (She carries a designer purse).

I sure hope I can become as bold as Jeri Neal.

Because if I step on stage in that short pink dress and freak, I’m NOT allowed to turn my back.

Top Photo: The cast of the Dixie Swim Club right before we climbed into our decorated truck for the Hillsborough Christmas Parade.

Dixie Swim Club


My Theater Debut: The Dixie Swim Club



Menopause makes us braver!

But did it make me brave enough to try out for a play?


Too chicken to try for parts in high school and college, I’ve been toying with auditioning for  Orange Community Players, our local theater group. Then last month, my friend Bernie urged me to try out for their upcoming production of The Dixie Swim Club, a five woman show.

Bernie had no clue I was thinking of acting. I took this as my sign!

I warmed up by using dramatic motions as I gave the children’s sermon one Sunday at church. “You were so theatrical–good job!” Judy said. I fessed up about the tryouts. “I’m not telling many people.I have no idea what my chances are.”

I bought the script and Audition by Michael Shurtleff, a book recommended by Marci Rich. I met Marci through The Women of Midlife, a wonderful Facebook community.

Audition Books

I read the play three times and devoured the acting book.

Audition night!

Lisa, the director, gave me parts of the script to look over. I snapped a photo. If I didn’t get a part at least I could blog about the experience. I was so nervous, I have a hunch I forgot everything I learned in the acting book.


But guess what? This won’t be my last theater post.

I got a part! I’m Jeri Neal McFeeley. As the play opens, Jeri Neal, a former nun, is now pregnant, really pregnant.


Not only do I go into labor on stage, I wear a skimpy dress in another scene, and in another, talk sexy on the phone to my brand new husband. And I’m going to age from my forties to my seventies.

Dixie Swim Club

Menopause courage, I beg you, step onto that stage with me.

At least, despite the play’s title, I don’t have to wear a bathing suit.

That would take more courage than this Jeri Neal McFeeley could muster.