Kernersville Little Theatre will present the comedy “The Kitchen Witches” in an outdoor production, its second at the stage and amphitheater at Ciener Botanical Gardens.
“The Kitchen Witches,” written by Caroline Smith, premiered at the Stirling Festival Theater in Stirling, Ontario, Canada, in June 2003. It won the 2005 Samuel French Best Canadian Play Award and has gone on to numerous productions in multiple countries.
“The Kitchen Witches” tells the story of “mature” cable-access cooking show hostesses, Isobel Lomax and Dolly Biddle. As the publisher describes it, “they have hated each other for 30 years, ever since Larry Biddle dated one and married the other.”
Fate puts them together as the TV show co-hostesses, where Dolly’s long-suffering offspring tries to keep them on track.
“But as long as Dolly’s dressing room is 1 inch closer to the set than Isobel’s, it’s a losing battle — even as the battling ‘witches’ become a ratings smash.”
Steffanie Vaughan will direct the comedy for KLT. Also an actor and musician, she previously directed “Shrek” and “Tarzan.”
“Presenting theater in the time of COVID-19 is interesting, to say the least,” Vaughan said. “I believe the most striking thing is the level of uncertainty. There’s always a level of uncertainty in the theatre — will the actors learn their lines, blocking, etc. in time; will the sets and costumes be ready; will the audience come and like the show? But never have we faced the uncertainty of whether we will be able to present our show to an audience of any size, or at all.
“In addition, for actors and directors, social distancing puts a definite damper on the creative mind,” she added. “We can’t physically interact as we’re used to doing. If we use masks, we can’t see the emotions being portrayed. If we use face shields, there is often glare from the shields. We’ve had to adjust. And adjust we have, because we love the theater and want to perform.”
Under current restrictions for mass gatherings, KLT will be able to sell 50 tickets each show. But putting on a show outdoors to allow a larger audience takes the project up an extra level.
“Outdoor theater is always a challenge,” Vaughan said. “As I’ve had the good fortune to direct shows in the Lewisville Square, outdoors is less daunting. The challenge this time has been the venue and the limitations it presents.
“Today’s audience, however,” Vaughan said, “being familiar with reality television, will easily follow the story presented onstage.”
The cast of “The Kitchen Witches” includes Elyse Rodriguez (as Dolly), Dianne Paukstelis (Isobel), Sammy Leigh Campbell (Stephen Biddle) and Karen Hincher (Roberta).
Hincher’s involvement is more of a triple-threat “opportunity.” In addition to filling the roles of production manager and stage manager for the show, “I'm also acting in the show as essentially an intern and the crew for the ‘show within the show,’” she said.
“At first, I thought this would prove itself difficult, as I’m used to being in one place to call cues for the show,” Hincher said, “but the more we’ve worked on it, the more I’ve realized how cool an opportunity this is, to be right up in the action.”
Her off-stage duties have required some adjustments under the current restrictions for producing live presentations.
“Working in theater during this time has definitely been a unique adventure,” Hincher said. “It has been important to find new ways to adapt to outdoor spaces and social distancing requirements, while still keeping Steffanie's vision for the show alive.”
Transitioning from rehearsals to the performances with audiences, a stage and technical equipment will also have its moments.
“Going from working indoors in the same space for so long to working outdoors in the elements and in a much different location has had its own set of challenges, but I find that to be one of the best and most rewarding parts of live theater.”
Despite those challenges, Hincher feels the entertainment value will be worth it.
“This hilarious show will definitely be a special one,” she said, “and I encourage everyone to see it.”