Lori Willis has always had a flare for the dramatic. The Glynn Academy special education and math teacher began working in community theater when she was just 8 years old.
And it’s a passion that’s followed her throughout her life.
“I first joined the Island Players and auditioned for ‘Annie the Musical,’” Willis said.
“I was cast as Tessie, one of the orphans. I have performed in many shows over the years.”
Through those performances, Willis’ love of singing and dancing continued to grow. As she moved into adulthood, she kept it up, even sharing the art with her children.
“I have always loved to sing and dance. I have been singing since the age of 5 and danced with Eleanor Brooks School of Dance for 15 years,” she said.
“The acting part came later, but once I auditioned for Annie I was hooked. Both of my children are into theater as well.”
Recently, after decades of experience, Willis was offered the opportunity to try her hand at directing an Island Players production, as the group was was looking to stage the play, “An Unnecessary Farce,” by Paul Slade Smith. The comedy centers around just seven characters who find themselves in a cheap motel. The players, which include police officers, an accountant and the mayor find themselves confused amidst a sea of rooms — and hilarity ensues.
The show, which is not suitable for children, features Brian Griffin as Eric Sheridan, a police officer; Colleen Knight as Karen Brown, a CPA; Justin Cox, a Scottish hitman; Shannon Stock, an undercover cop named Billie Dwyer; Joe Airtime, Agent Frank, head of security; Mark Semmelmayer as the mayor; and Leslie Cardin as the mayor’s wife.
While pulling off a comedy is never easy, Willis embraced the challenge and is grateful to bring these skilled actors together on stage.
“It is very funny and has been a lot of fun directing. The cast has been excellent during rehearsals. They have worked hard and it is a great show,” she said.
“The show was originally chosen over a year ago, not knowing what would happen in the world.”
Of course, the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic did have an impact. Finding ways to come together to audition and rehearse were certainly challenging. But Willis credits the cast with determination to make it work.
“It has definitely been a trying time to say the least. The cast has come together four nights a week and worked very hard to get this show together. They stay late and arrive early. And most of all, they work very well together,” she said.
The group’s hard work will pay off as the show opens at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the St. Simons Island Casino, proving the old adage — “the show must go on.”
And the Players put protocols in place that will keep the audience safe.
“With the pandemic and everything being shut down for so long, the board of directors for the Island Players decided to take a chance and go ahead with opening this show in January. It will hopefully help bring entertainment back to the community and give everyone a fun night out,” she said.
“There is a limit of 75 audience members allowed in the theater with seats marked off for social distancing. There will be members seating the audience as well as taking temperatures before entering. And as always, masks are required to be worn during the entire performance.”
While these measures will be a departure from the “norm,” Willis says the show will offer a much needed respite from the ongoing difficulties of the world. She’s hopeful that the community will continue to support the community theatre as it has for more than six decades.
“Please come out and support these actors. They have worked very hard to make this show what it is — great entertainment.”