GHS grads take the stage and deliver at ‘The Gathering’

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

They live in Florida. They drink Budweiser beer chilled in a backyard pond. They smoke cigarettes and curse the old lady who owns their boarding house. They work at a paper mill plant that leaves their clothes, hair and bed sheets stinking of pulp. They are surrounded by gnomes. They have hopes and dreams.

They live, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, lives of quiet desperation.

The characters of Fin and Euba – two lonely women desiring escape from the mediocrity of their everyday existence – are the creation of Audrey Cefaly, who a long time ago went by the name of Leigh Redick. Cefaly and classmate Carolyn Messina performed “Fin and Euba” on Saturday night at the Ritz Theatre, culminating a weekend reunion of Greenville High School graduates.

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It had been 23 years since the duo had walked the Ritz stage in character, then in the Old Gym Players’ production of Hello Dolly.

“It was so weird,” said Messina. “But amazing.”

Although the play is set in the Florida Panhandle, “Fin and Euba” was inspired by Greenville. Southside Baptist Church gets a mention. A few familiar names are dropped. And there’s a funny story about the old Winn Dixie and its meat market. (And if you missed it, sorry, I’m not telling. You should have been there.) The play is one-act, a little under 30 minutes, but it’s a powerful kick in the stomach for anyone who’s ever dreamed of a better life.

In synopsis: Euba gets a letter from Life, because Fin mailed the magazine some photos her friend took from a strike the year before at the paper mill. Is it acceptance or rejection? Props are minimal: two lawn chairs, a six-pack of beer, a can to flick the cigarette ashes, and several plaster gnomes, their overbearing landlady’s garden décor of choice. One’s named “Bobby,” who gets tossed in the off-stage pond courtesy of Fin.

“It is such a great piece,” said Messina. “It needs to be seen.”

Cefaly’s play won the prestigious Strawberry One-Act Festival in New York City. Messina was awarded for Best Actress.

The play aside, there was also musical entertainment in the form of Greenville’s own Kevin Sport, (singing with two pickers), and Tony “Wojamm” Womack.

Nancy Idland, of the Greenville Area Arts Council, said she had been “trying for years” to get “Wojamm” down from Detroit for a performance. A 1972 graduate of GHS, Womack learned to play the trumpet in the fifth grade and was once rated the top player in Alabama. He serenaded former drama teacher Roberta Gamble with a solo of “Hello Dolly,” then his band launched into an hour-long jam session with his wife, vocalist Shiron Denise, center stage.

Womack said one of his favorite memories was playing the trumpet solo to “Grazing in the Grass” in Tiger Stadium during a football game.

“And all the phone numbers that came after it,” he said.