Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on April 11th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 6

Orcutt Community Theater's production of 'Mama Won't Fly' highlights the soul of local theater


Backstage in a dressing room, tucked behind a dark corner, Dixie Arthur is busy fixing her hair, while Emily Zaas puts the final touches on her makeup.

Jo Grande is similarly busy, wrapping up a repair for a costume for another performer, all the while taming another wig to be used in the Orcutt Community Theater’s new production of Mama Won’t Fly.

“I always make it work,” Grande confidently tells the group as she finishes. They nod and laugh, another quiet little disaster gently averted before the rehearsal.

Dixie Arthur (pictured right) and Jo Grande (left) star as a bickering mother-daughter duo in Orcutt Community Theater’s production of Mama Won’t Fly, showing through April 22. The play is a comedy written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooton and directed by David Campbell.

Everyone is hushed, peacefully intense in their preparation. A planned media preview has turned into an informal dress rehearsal, the media performance canceled over concerns Grande has about her voice—a possible onslaught of bronchitis could spell disaster for the fledgling community theater group.

But today, they are focused only on the rehearsal.

The play is about Savannah Sprunt Fairchild Honeycutt, who agrees to get her spunky mother from Alabama to California for her brother’s wedding.

It’s a quirky comedy centered on the Sprunts, Savannah and Norleen (the titular “mama”), played by Arthur and Grande respectively. Savannah’s brother is set to be married in four days in California, but there’s a catch: Their mother won’t take a plane. The play has everything from a near-death experience to a lot of humbling mother-daughter fighting and bonding. The hijinks also include the bride, Hayley Quinn (Zaas), a nerve-wrecked soul desperate to impress her soon-to-be in-laws.

“[Hayley] is a huge klutz,” Zaas explained. “She’s always got really bad luck. ... She feels particularly cursed because a girl in the third grade put a curse on her because her boyfriend sent Hayley a Valentine and now she thinks she needs to find someone with worse luck than her to break the curse.”

Fly away
Mama Won’t Fly is a production of the Orcutt Community Theater. Performances are scheduled for April 13, 14, 20, and 22 at 7 p.m., as well as April 15 and 22 at 2 p.m. All productions are performed at Righetti High School Drama Room Theater No. 403, 941 E. Foster Road, Orcutt. More info:

Arthur is a writer, producer, and director with more than 30 years of theater experience and was one of the guiding forces who helped launch Orcutt Community Theater last year. She is a big fan of the trio of writers who wrote Mama Won’t Fly, Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooton. Collectively known as Jones Hope Wooten, the group has written nearly a dozen plays largely centered on Southern families and their dynamics.

“They like Southern women,” Arthur said. “They like the South, and they’re hilarious.[Savannah] is very funny. She has an interesting relationship with her mama. Sometimes she’s strong and sometimes she’s a whiny child. Mama spoiled her. It’s really fun to play her.”

Zaas said community theater is needed in places like Orcutt because it helps showcase local talent and bring people together. She said there are a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to bring a production like Mama Won’t Fly to life.

“Everyone is really nice and really talented,” Zaas said. “It’s a lot more work to do something like this than people realize. You’re always working on learning your lines or studying your character.”

Arthur said she hopes people will be encouraged to check out more productions at their local community theater and eventually participate as well.

“I think sometimes people think it’s a closed society,” Arthur said. “But it can’t be, because then it doesn’t serve the community. We want people to feel welcome and be a part of it. It’s really important to us.”

As the technicians buzz around them, making their final preparations for props and sound effects, the women at the heart of Mama Won’t Fly are silently running lines in their heads and perfecting little details on their costumes. For them, every moment on the Orcutt stage is cherished.

But ultimately, all their hard work is for the audience, not themselves.

“I think people would enjoy it,” Zaas said. “It’s really funny. It’s that kind of sense of humor that everyone enjoys.”

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose won’t fly. Contact her at

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