Debbie Barnhouse went from acting in River City Players productions to directing them

Friday, September 11, 2009

In 1999, Debbie Barnhouse read in the Southeast Missourian that Cape Girardeau's community theater group was presenting "Steel Magnolias." Barnhouse told her husband, Randy, she wanted to see the play. He agreed, and they attended a dinner theater show.

"When we went, I was blown away," Barnhouse said. "Next thing I knew, I was saying, I want to do this!"

Soon after, she auditioned for a production of "The Night of January 16th" and got a part.

"For a few years, I couldn't stop," she said. Barnhouse and her husband acted in several plays with the group and always had a great time.

Ten years later, Barnhouse is still with the River City Players, but in a different role. She began directing and will direct her latest endeavor with this weekend's "Getting Sara Married," a comedy which starts today and runs Saturday and again Sept 17, 18 and 19.

Barnhouse said "Getting Sara Married" is like a potluck dinner on stage, because of all the different characters and story lines that are going on, and the ideas the cast is trying to convey to the audience. She said she chose the play because it is a one set show and a comedy.

She started directing in 2001 for something different.

"I just woke up one morning and said, well, I am done with acting. I want to direct. After that, I never looked back," she said.

Barnhouse became the assistant director under Ann Swanson for a production of "Driving Miss Daisy," and she directed the play herself a few years later. She was asked to rejoin the board of the theater group, where she has previously served as a secretary. She now serves as president.

"It's challenging, but fun," she said.

Barnhouse said the most important thing to her as a director is to present an excellent production to the community, and to pay attention to details -- like the New York accents adopted by one of the characters of this latest play.

The plot revolves around Sara Hastings, a busy New York lawyer who has no desire to add a man into her life. Unfortunately for Sara, she has an ambitious matchmaker aunt, Martha, who Barnhouse said has some very peculiar ways of getting men to her niece's apartment.

"Aunt Martha is really out there, and reminds me of Aunt Claire from 'Bewitched'," Barnhouse said.

Melissa Wade stars as Sara, and Holley Raines is playing the part of Aunt Martha. The male lead, a character named Brandon Cates, is played by Matthew Heisserer.

Brandon meets Sara, but can't get involved because of his engagement to Heather Boyd, played by Lindsay Miller. There, Barnhouse said the plot makes a complete circle and the comedy begins.

Besides the laughter sure to be invoked by Aunt Martha's character, Barnhouse is sure a delivery man named Noogie Malloy, played by Randy Barnhouse, will delight audiences.

"He's your typical shady New York delivery guy," said Barnhouse," so you've got these two characters, who are hysterical, and then Heather, who becomes hysterical, because she thinks something is going on between her Brandon and that Sara."

One other character, known as the Chiropractor, is played by Joe Reed and has no lines in the play, but Barnhouse said he is nevertheless an important character in the story.

Barnhouse said she is very pleased with the hard work and dedication her actors have shown so far in rehearsals.

"Melissa Wade truly is Sara. I have never seen a person truly transform themselves like she has, and I am so proud of this actor, because last year was her first time in a performance," she said.

Wade previously played a police officer last year in a play directed by Barnhouse.

"She is on the stage the entire two hours, that's how many lines she has," said Barnhouse, "and it shows what an incredible job she has done."

The characters' New York accents are a highlight of the play, and Barnhouse said she is proud of the actors Holley Raines and Lindsay Miller, who have really perfected the city folk sharpness.

Barnhouse said she and her assistant director Sara Corbin, and lights and sound engineer Chuck Ross have helped set designer Tim Roth create a set so believable for the play that the audience will really feel as if they are in Sara's apartment.

"People will really like this play because it is all about relationships," said Barnhouse. "It has so much truth and color to it."

The dinner show starts today and runs again Saturday and Sept. 18 to 19. Doors open at the River City Yacht Club inside Port Cape at 6:30 p.m., for dinner at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30, by calling Port Cape at 334-0954 for a reservation.

A show-only performance will be at 7 p.m., Sept. 17. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets are $12.

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