At Last! ‘The Sun is Gonna Shine Again’ on live theatre

The Historic Bama Theatre (Photo courtesy of David H. Jones)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After a dim eighteen months, The Actor’s Charitable Theatre is returning to light the stage with their upcoming production of Bright Star.

Bright Star, written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, tells the true story of Alice Murphy, a young literary editor who sets out on a journey to understand her past after meeting a young soldier just home from World War II.

Since starting the rehearsal process in April, the cast and crew of this production have expressed nothing but love, excitement, and eagerness to finally be able to tell this story.

Sara-Margaret Cates said she is honored to make her directorial debut with the Actor’s Charitable Theatre, and expressed amazement as she reflected upon working with the company thus far.

“I grew up in this community, learning the art and craft of theatre and now get to direct former students, peers, and even mentors in this production,” she said.

Cates said she jumped at the opportunity to direct this ‘bucket-list’ show of hers, one that reflects the truth of humanity and, “will break your heart, but not leave you broken,” as she stated.

“These past 18+ months have been a struggle for so many of us and this show, in so many ways, is the sun shining again. I can’t wait for us all to be back in the theatre together — at last!”

Caroline Quinn spoke about her experience working as stage manager and choreographer.

“This experience has been such a blessing and I have enjoyed greatly working in two vastly different backstage roles,” she said.

Quinn also spoke about the reward that comes with seeing her artistic visions come to life on stage.

“Having the ability to work with such an amazing cast and crew has made me very grateful for this experience and I hope audience members will enjoy what we have created.”

Lisa Waldrop Shattuck, who plays Alice Murphy, said she felt the joy of being back in a theatrical environment from the very start of this rehearsal process.

“As performers, we’ve all been grateful for the various ways art continued to thrive in a virtual world, but nothing compares to working on a project together and presenting it to a live audience.”

Shattuck said she has been able to make personal connections to her character as she continues to explore a woman of great emotional complexity.

Lisa Waldrop Shattuck as Alice Murphy (Photo courtesy of Alisha Jones)

“I think her journey is universal in many ways, and my goal is to embody her spirit honestly and respectfully,” she said.

“Until I read the script more carefully, I didn’t realize that [Alice] attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill! My father graduated from college there, so I was happy to discover that connection,” she added.

Shattuck said she hopes audience members feel uplifted by this story of resilience and joy.

Bright Star alternates between 1920s and 1940s North Carolina, which means that actors have had to adjust their mannerisms in order to effectively portray the character’s various ages.

Brent Jones, who plays Jimmy Ray, spoke about the challenges he faced while portraying a character who alternates ages throughout.

“Young Jimmy Ray moves quickly and spontaneously with enthusiasm, while older Jimmy Ray must be more mellow and deliberate,” said Jones .

This speaks to the complexity of the piece, which Jones also said he was surprised to find out revolved around a true event.

Autumn Fuller, who plays Margo, spoke about the importance of the timing of the production.

“We, as a community, have been dealing with some unbelievably rough circumstances over the last year,” she said. “This show has brought me so much hope and I think audiences will leave our show feeling the same hopefulness.”

This story presents a myriad of emotions, which makes the comic relief even more necessary.

Lindsey Jones plays Lucy, a flirtatious and exuberant character who helps to lighten the mood.

“I love to be a part of the laughter and play with one liners after so many heavy punches within the storyline,” said Jones. “If we do our jobs right, [audiences] will laugh, cry, enjoy great music and choreography while feeling every emotion of this touching story,” she added.

Royce Garrison plays Daryl, the intimidatingly witty editor and counterpart to Lucy.

Garrison was able to bring some of his own personality into this humorous role.

“Every time Daryl and Lucy are on stage, the audience should know that they can relax and laugh,” he said. “In my personal life, I always tackle serious situations with a bit of humor, and the role of Daryl is no different.”

(Left to Right) Lisa Waldrop Shattuck, Royce Garrison, and Lindsey Jones (Photo courtesy of Alisha Jones)

This production is not only driven by the characters impacted by the event, but also by the ensemble, a prominent part of the show.

Reagan Branch, who plays Florence in addition to being in the ensemble, discussed the impact the ensemble has on the show.

“We get to be on stage in some of the most emotional scenes to add depth to the storytelling,” she said.

Branch also spoke about the rehearsal process, and the excitement she said she felt from the start.

“Early on in our rehearsal process, we got to have our violinist come in and play with us. It was like hearing what the show was going to sound like before we had even started,” she said.

Colton Crowe, ensemble member and male dance captain, spoke about his experience being one of the dance captain’s for a show in which the ensemble is prominent.

“Every single person who makes up this cast is truly important in helping to bring this beautiful story to life,” he said. “It’s important that we as a cast collaborate to tell the story through not only the words we say or sing, but also by how we utilize our bodies to help emphasize those same words.”

Crowe said he hopes underlying themes of the show remind audiences to remain hopeful through hard times and to lean on those around you.

Jordan Hall, who plays Stanford in addition to being in the ensemble, described the return of live theatre using one word — magical.

“Not being in the Bama Theatre for the past two years has taken a toll on me, and I’m sure others as well,” he said. “[This show] is filled with all your favorite actors from different local companies all on one stage!”

Bright Star will be running June 18–20 at the Bama Theatre. Tickets are available for purchase by clicking here.

(Left to Right) Danielle Molina, Lisa Waldrop Shattuck, and Tommy Letsinger (Photo courtesy of Alisha Jones)