Getting back to the ’70s: Everett presents next play, ‘Holey Rollers’ beginning Oct. 31
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
If you were one of the ones lucky enough to acquire a ticket to last year’s sold out “Hillbilly Homecoming,” a hilarious look back at Maryville’s small town doings, you’ll be even more excited to discover its writer, Mike Everett, is back with another comic peek into our past.
Everett has again teamed up with seasoned film and television actor David Dwyer to this time give a glimpse of Maryville as it was in 1971, a decade later than the setting in “Hillbilly.” This second play is called “Holey Rollers,” and it’s hitting pretty close to home for its writer. It’s set in a Maryville beauty shop and takes place on five consecutive Fridays as customers file in for their flips and updos.
Write what you know
Everett has spent the last three decades as a hair designer, making women beautiful. And while he’s done that, he’s also listened — to their personal stories of pain, pride, habits and eccentricities.
Those who did see “Hillbilly” last year probably remember the acting of Tonya Stout-Brown. She played the role of Mur Ruth and had audiences talking for weeks after the curtain came down. This native of Blount County and graduate of William Blount High School took a role that was absolutely a hoot to watch and turned it up a notch, maybe two.
Well, she’s back, this time as Diane, the owner of a Maryville beauty shop. After reading the script, Stout-Brown knew she could pull it off.
“Diane is not too far removed from me,” Stout-Brown said on a recent rehearsal night. “I definitely relate to her. Diane is like me, on steroids — over the top.”
A past to draw from
Stout-Brown said her first time on stage was as a 3-year-old at her church. Many in the community will remember her from the days she was a part of the WIVK team, or even earlier, on WGAP. She now works part-time reading the news for WNOX and also in public relations for Covenant Health.
Dwyer, who directs “Holey Rollers” and who also directed both seasons of “Hillbilly Homecoming,” said he is in awe of the talent he’s working with on this one.
“This is the most experienced cast I have had the opportunity to work with,” he said. “They have all been on stage. They all pay attention. The ones with a lot of experience — I just stay out of their way.”
Everett said it was more difficult writing this second play; it took him only two weeks to pen “Hillbilly.”
He went through re-writes for both with Dwyer and said these talented actors like Stout-Brown add their own personal touches to make it even more comical.
“They will change the script to suit themselves sometimes, but it works,” the playwright said. “Once they do that, we just say ‘keep it.’ What do you do with talent like that? Tonya is the queen of ad lib and it works.”
Time moves on
There are other characters besides Mur Ruth from “Hillbilly” that return for “Holey Rollers.” The subject matter this time is very different, Dwyer explained. Where the first play centered on an annual outdoor celebration in Maryville and the discovery of a beautiful singer, this one is set in a beauty shop in a time when things are rapidly changing, in Maryville and everywhere. There is the Vietnam War and the women’s movement.
Maryville natives will recognize Everett’s inclusion of some favorite gathering places, like McBrayer’s Restaurant, the Sandwich Shop, Now Town and Richy Kreme.
Local radio personality Walker Johnson has created new lyrics for some favorite ’70s tunes to tie it all together.
Besides writing this play many are saying is even funnier than “Hillbilly,” Everett is also working on hair and makeup and searching thrift stores near and far for ’70s fashions and props. Think polyester for this one. It’s been extremely hard, Everett said, to find white polyester uniforms for the beauticians, but mission accomplished.
Dwyer knows Everett is definitely a planner, an organizer, a doer of all tasks. Everett even had the Clayton Center booked this year before “Holey Rollers” was even written.
“I had it started,” he pointed out. “It just wasn’t finished. It was well under way.”
Some who heard Everett’s name for the play have surmised that maybe it’s poking fun at religion, but Everett wants everyone to know that isn’t the case. It’s ‘holey’ not holy.’ Stout-Brown said she would not have been part of something sacrilegious. Stout-Brown’s character is a loving Christian woman who makes no secret of her life grounded by faith.
Ready to reveal
Rehearsals were held back in August. The cast was chosen. They did a couple of readings and then went home — to learn their lines before reconvening in a month to bring everything together. It’s been a blast, the director said, and everything seems to be ahead of schedule for the Oct. 31 opening. A Saturday matinee has been added because of such high demand for tickets.
Dwyer has appeared in a number of films, including “The Blind Side,” “October Sky,” “Remember the Titans,” “Runaway Jury,” “Boys of Summerville” and several more, as well as made for TV movies, television series and commercials. He has been a friend of Everett’s for years and said he made sure he had time for this next installment. “Holey Rollers,” Dwyer said, is the second of a trilogy that Everett is writing. The third will be set in the 1980s, but that’s all either will reveal for now.
There is a lot of interaction/reaction in this one, the writer explained. The beauty technicians are on stage for almost the entire length of the play, which should come a little under two hours in length.
“What I have tried to show with this play is that all of these women individually are not that strong, but as a group they are invincible,” Everett said. “They have a lot of chemistry.”
Isn’t that ...?
Ironically, there is a Diana (Clendenen) who works at the salon where Everett also works. She is responsible for the wigs used in the play. There is also a woman named Vera in the shop and a character in the play with that same name. But Everett said he’s told both of them for the past nine months the play isn’t about them.
He admits he doesn’t know where all of this creativity and ability comes from. He’s just enjoying the opportunity to write about a place that is near and dear to his heart. The nostalgia he weaves into this story has also given him a huge revelation.
“It’s only since I started writing these plays that I realize I’m old,” he said.
He hopes his audiences will appreciate his longevity.
Stout-Brown certainly thinks he got it right.
“Mike has done an excellent job of capturing the essence of Maryville, the culture, the way things were in 1971,” she said. “And you can tell he is a man who spent a lot of time listening to girls talk to each other.”