Kernersville Little Theatre will continue its partnership with Ciener Botanical Gardens to present another outdoor play using the gardens’ amphitheater and stage.
For three nights starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, KLT is offering Lee Blessing’s 1985 play, “Eleemosynary.” A study of three generations of exceptional women, the play dissects the shifting relationships when the grandmother suffers a stroke.
The play, directed by April J’Callahan Marshall, features Linda Minney as the grandmother, Dorothea; Marilyn Gaylord as Dorothea’s daughter, Artie; and Paiten Iselin as Artie’s daughter, Echo, who has been brought up by Dorothea.
Blessing’s play premiered in 1985 at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., and later had a 1989 run at New York City’s Manhattan Theatre Club.
“‘Eleemosynary’ is a beautiful play about the relationships in an unorthodox trio of grandmother, daughter and granddaughter,” Marshall said. “While it explores the foibles that exist in any family dynamics, it also exemplifies the overcoming power of words, hope and love.”
The youngest woman, Echo, seeks to bridge the gap between her mother and grandmother. “It’s a touching and moving story told in a series of flashbacks, intermingled with the present, that will make you think,” Marshall said.
“When I selected the cast, it was important to have people who could work together and trust each other to work within the physical intimacies required by this piece,” Marshall noted. “As this is a play about relationships, it was critical that the emotion evoked be as real as possible to convey the message. The connections between the actors are crucial.”
The outdoor locale for the production may add to the feel of the show.
“I actually think that the setting of the gardens around the stage and the blooming that will be in place will add to the atmosphere for the piece,” Marshall said.
“On the stage, we will likely use face shields, but as minimally as possible. We hope safety measures will not interfere with the marvelous job these three women are doing with the characters,” she said.
Strictly defined, “Eleemosynary” relates to giving or being charitable. Since Echo, the precocious daughter, is having unparalleled success in a national spelling bee, the word has multiple meanings.
Marshall added that the audience doesn’t need to worry about that intriguing word.
“Don’t worry if you don’t already know what eleemosynary is, or how to spell it,” she said. “We’ll teach you!”
Paiten Iselin, who plays Echo, is a KLT veteran in addition to appearances around the Triad.
“Prior to the audition announcement, I was not familiar with this show. So, I promptly conducted some internet research,” she said. She found a copy of the script and viewed a staged reading on YouTube. “With those resources, I had an understanding of the show’s plot and themes before auditions.”
Iselin was intrigued by the story of the three women, and of Echo’s character in particular.
“Like most individuals, I’m drawn to a good story,” Iselin said. “That is what I found in this play. Although it is filled with conflict, a current of beauty and love courses through its pages, adding to the play’s depth. The duality and complexity of the show drew me to audition for the role.
“In the show,” she continued, “the characters recall the episodes of their lives that have shaped them into the individuals they are today. Every time I read the script, I unearth something new to ponder or appreciate. Some moments will make you chuckle. Others will — for lack of a more original phrase — tug at your heartstrings.”
Rehearsal was a different process because of COVID-19 restrictions — everyone involved wears a shield — but that drawback was nothing compared to the pleasure of being back on a stage.
“Returning to the theatre after such a long ‘intermission’ has been akin to reuniting with a dear friend I have not seen in a long time,” Iselin said. “Honestly, I did not realize how much I missed the theater until I stepped back into the audition room.