‘Kitchen Witches’ debuts at Starlighters Theatre

“The Kitchen Witches” takes to the stage this weekend at Starlighters II Theatre in Anamosa. The small but fierce cast includes, from left, Jason Stover, Nancy Collell, Mary Sue Vernon, and Dana Vaughn. (Photos by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Two seasoned community theater members are stepping behind the scenes to co-direct Starlighters II Theatre’s latest production of “The Kitchen Witches.”

     Diana Jones and Susan Wilcox have had their hand in many various roles throughout Starlighters’ history. Jones has added productions at the Coggon Opera House to her theater resume.

     “The Kitchen Witches” was unearthed by another Starlighters’ director who pitched it to the theater’s head committee. When that director moved away, the play was in need of a director.

     “I was approached because I had played one of the characters of this play at another theater a few years ago,” shared Jones. “So I was familiar with it.”

     This play has a small but mighty cast, if you will. With just four characters, each brings something unique and independent to the stage:

     • Mary Sue Vernon as Isobel Lomax

     • Nancy Collell as Dolly Biddle

     • Dana Vaughn as Stephen Biddle

     • Jason Stover as Rob the Camera Guy (Stover’s role is that of a silent but gloomy cameraman.)

     Wilcox, a first-time director, said it was the small cast size that appealed to her.

     “And when I read it I couldn’t stop laughing,” she said.

     Jones said she was delighted to co-direct this play because it’s near and dear to her heart. She said despite her history with the play, the humor, the setting, and the story it tells also played a role in leading the production.

     “The Kitchen Witches” is about the rocky relationship between Lomax and Biddle, two cable-access cooking show hosts who have hated each other for decades. When circumstances put them together on a TV show called ‘Kitchen Witches,’ insults start flying harder than the food. Their suffering producer, Dolly’s son, tries to keep them on track, but it’s a losing battle.”

     The setting for the Starlighters’ show is a live TV cooking show. The audience takes on the role of the cooking show audience as well, and some participation in required. At times, as Isobel and Dolly converse with the audience, some simple questions will require answers. And a male audience member will also be chosen to join the cast on stage for a cooking demonstration and take on the role of a celebrity judge during the bake-off.

     As people show up for the production, male audience members can put their name in the caldron at a chance to be called on during the show. The celebrity judge will be awarded a prize as well.

     In casting the roles, Jones said she was looking for actors “who could play humorous roles, but also be serious at times.” She said she wanted cast members who could click with one another because it’s s small cast.

     “It was difficult to choose who we wanted to cast because everyone was very talented,” she said. Jones said they had a decent turnout for auditions.

     “The people in the cast have been great to work with and have made it very easy to direct added Jones. She said they’ve been open to ideas from herself and Wilcox, and have also brought ideas of their own as actors.

     Jones herself has appeared in five productions at Starlighters, and was an assistant director at last summer’s “Gigi.” In addition, she appeared in 10 shows at the Coggon Opera House.

     Wilcox has been involved in 24 different productions at Starlighters throughout the years in various ways: acting on stage and working backstage behind the scenes. She has also written material for Starlighters’ Young People’s Theatre (YPT).

     “The Kitchen Witches” premiered last weekend, but you can also catch it April 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m., and April 15 at 2:30 p.m.

     Tickets are still available by visiting starlighters.org or calling the box office at 319-462-4793.

     “‘The Kitchen Witches’ is a feel-good, laugh-at-loud comedy that will have you going away with a smile on your face,” said Jones.



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