PHP continues 44th season with Elvis farce

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As "Elvis Has Left the Building" nears, The Pumphouse Players continues to offer "new takes on familiar faces" with its 44th season.

"Serving as president of Pumphouse Players is a little surreal, seeing as I grew up in Bartow and performed on The Legion stage as a kid with some of the folks who I now serve alongside," Laurel Ann Lowe said. "I am excited to be leading PHP now as we enter our 44th consecutive year of providing quality entertainment to the community. I think it says something about who we are as a community that we have so many growing and thriving artistic groups in town, and I'm happy to be a part of that network.

"Our season has just started, and we just closed our first show of the season last month. We typically have the Pumphouse Junior youth show first, in July, and we had a record turnout for auditions. We are proud to say that we sold out every show in advance of opening, and we will be looking for ways to be able to offer more seats in future years. We are really looking forward to 'Elvis Has Left the Building,' coming up next week, because it is a hilarious comedy featuring two Elvis impersonators in a bit of a sticky situation."

To be presented at The Legion Theatre, "Elvis Has Left the Building" will be performed Aug. 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 19 at 3 p.m.

Under the direction of Michael Adamson, the play's cast includes PHP Secretary Duane Ellis as "Colonel" Tom Parker; Donna Young as Trudy; Elliott Grenier as Roscoe; Matt Thompson as Candy; and PHP Vice President April Branham as Jill Tanner.

"Everyone knows who Elvis is, but not everyone knows about his manager, Colonel Tom Parker," said Branham, who portrays a reporter in the play. "This story is full of hilarious dialogue and mishaps, and we believe that it will keep audiences laughing throughout the entire show.

"This story takes place right before Christmas in 1970, and focuses on Elvis’ manager. ... The colonel is completely clueless as to where Elvis is, so he takes drastic and ridiculous measures to find an Elvis impersonator to perform for a Las Vegas gangster."

She continued, "… Being an Elvis fan myself, I was thrilled when this play was selected. I am eternally grateful to Michael Adamson for casting me."

Following "Elvis Has Left the Building," PHP's season will continue with "Bell, Book and Candle" in October; "A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play" in December; "Thee & Thou" in February; "Frost/Nixon" in March; "Little Women, the Musical" in May; and "The Explorers Club" in June.

"Our official season selection process includes a small committee of members who volunteer to read all the plays submitted and decide which of those will form our season," Lowe said. "Some years as many as 40 [to] 50 plays are submitted by our members and patrons and, of those, eight [or] nine are selected. It's a months-long process that requires dedicated folks willing to discuss and rank plays to choose a balanced season. We are so lucky to have had committees with a variety of opinions and tastes to make sure there's something for everyone in each season.

"The 44th season is jam-packed full of fun and funny delights, plus our Metropolitan Atlanta Theater Award submissions next March and May — 'Frost/Nixon' and 'Little Women, the Musical,' respectively. While each play itself isn't, perhaps, well-known, almost all the shows this year feature well-known 'characters' from real life and/or pop culture. Patrons may expect to see new takes on familiar faces throughout the year."

To meet the need for an organized theater group, The Pumphouse Players was formed in 1975 by a small group of people, led by the late Don Kordecki. The troupe’s first production, “Mary, Mary” was presented in the offices of the abandoned First National Bank loan office on Main Street. The Pumphouse Players performed at several venues — Episcopal Church of the Ascension, American Legion Hall, Bartow Carver Camp Recreation Hall and The Grand Theatre — before finding a permanent home at The Legion Theatre — 114 W. Main St. in Cartersville — in 1993.

"Operating for 44 continuous years is not only unusual, it's difficult," Lowe said. "We've seen our fair share of change and setbacks over the years, but as a group we have stuck by our mission to the Cartersville/Bartow community and that same community has supported us.

"It's no secret that funding for the arts varies year to year, but we are lucky to have amazing organizations, like the Bartow-Cartersville Cultural Arts Alliance, the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Development Authority, who all provide support in different ways. This year, we were sad to say goodbye to one of our beloved, longtime members, Ron Connell, and we have dedicated the 44th season in honor of his memory."

Further details about PHP’s offerings can be obtained by visiting www.pumphouseplayers.com or calling 770-387-2610. Tickets for “Elvis Has Left the Building” are $18 for general admission and $15 for PHP members.