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JRT believes it’s time for some laughter

By PAM JOHNSON

The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is excited to begin its 2020-21 season with the popular comedy, “Dearly Departed,” written by Jessie Jones (from the Jones Hope Wooten playwright team) and David Bottrell. 

Laugh with the colorful and dysfunctional Turpin clan — a family of eccentrics from the Baptist backwoods of the Bible Belt — as amidst the chaos of a family crisis, they turn for comfort to their equally eccentric friends and neighbors, who manage to pull together and help each other in their hour of need. 

“Laughter is great medicine, and this show is hysterical!” said Mike Musick, who portrays Junior. “It’s funny because it’s relatable. We’ve all been in these situations and we all know people like these characters. Plus, there is something about live theatre that touches us and helps us escape reality, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.”

And that’s what those at the JRT want you to do: escape a little and laugh a lot. Part of the theatre’s mission statement is, “We strive to create quality community theatre that uplifts, inspires, and lightens the lives of the families in our audiences, as well as those of our own theatre family behind the scenes.” This is the show to do just that.

Mary Nell McIntyre, who plays Marguerite, agreed. “It is time for everyone to have a little laughter in their life and this is certainly the play that will provide it. Anyone, especially if you were raised in the South, will see shades of their own quirky family members in the escapades of the Turpin family and their close friends.”

In light of today’s challenges, however, director Joe Smith, who directed the show years ago, wanted to approach it a little differently this time. “It has been more than 10 years since I picked up that script, and I remember being so focused on getting the actors to hit those funny moments that I believe I lost sight of something significant: These are real people and they are facing some tough circumstances. So, at our first company meeting, I told the cast to look for the pain in their character’s life. From there they made choices about their character, and in doing so, those slapstick moments had a foundation. They are not just being funny; they are just being.”

That bit of direction has helped create a show that will touch patrons on so many levels, especially about those special people in our lives.

“This is a show about family, friends, and healing” said Smith, “and about realizing that we are truly blessed to have those people around us.”

“Dearly Departed” is directed by Joe Smith, assisted by Bennett Little. Rounding out the cast are Johnny Archer, Suzanne Cook, Lori Erickson, Janette Gaines, Shawn Hale, Chris Jones, Charles Landry, Emily Montgomery, Melissa Nipper, Marcy Pumilia, Justin Reilly, Jessie Scarbrough, Jo Sweet, and Chris Tester.

Shows run Thursdays through Sundays, Sept. 3 – 20. Tickets are $17 general admission, $15 for students and seniors. There is also a special group rate for parties of 15 or more. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to jonesboroughtheatre.com. The theatre is located at 125.5 W. Main St., Jonesborough.  (JRT will follow CDC guidelines including mandatory masks, temperatures taken at the door, and social distance seating.)