Like Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart and Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias, A Little Bit of Destiny by Peggy Hammond is another slice of small-town Southern life, claims Adam Traylor, who will direct the debut of this brand-new romantic comedy for OdysseyStage Theatre. Hammond's first full-length play is the winner of the Chapel Hill, NC-based theater's Adventures in Playwriting competition, triumphing over more than 40 other entries submitted since OdysseyStage sent out a call for new scripts in 2003.
"I first became aware of the show when I was being considered as the director," Adam Traylor recalls. "OdysseyStage contacted me to see if I was available; and after reading the script, I cleared my schedule so I could work on the play. Destiny is a new script that has only had readings until now. Staging a new play is always a challenge and a joy, so I jumped at the chance to do so."
He adds, "I've always loved the concept of destiny. What is pre-determined to happen, and what is truly up to chance? The play deals with the concept, but without becoming bogged down in superstition or sappy emotion. It also deals with the relationships between people who should love each other, but don't always seem to be able to show or express that love. To me, that is a story so universal that it is always worthy of telling."
In A Little Bit of Destiny, Traylor says, "Angel Ramsey (Anne Butler) has returned to her childhood home to deal with the passing of her grandmother, Mama Helen, who raised Angel and her three older sisters. Mama Helen has left all her earthly belongings to Angel, who now must struggle between her desire to move beyond the confines of the small town she grew up in and the responsibility of what to do with the home place and the memories within.
"Daisy (Brooke Dattner) finds herself in the middle of Angel's struggle," Traylor explains, "as she tries to prod her sister along into a romance with Barry McKenna (Christopher Bynum), Angel's high school beau. Meanwhile, June (Sandra Shelton) and Sophia (Jennifer Parks) hope to convince Angel to sell the house and divide all the belongings therein between them all."
In addition to director Adam Traylor, who doubles as sound designer for A Little Bit of Destiny, the show's production team includes producer and set designer John Paul Middlesworth and costume designer Melanie Miller.
Traylor says, "The set is a single interior in the kitchen of Mama Helen's house. The play takes place in the fictional small town of Glendale, NC; and the set reflects this setting.… The lighting is minimal due to the nature of the venue. White front light is all we are afforded."
Adam Traylor also notes, "The costumes are contemporary, reflecting the nature and personality of each of the characters. Four of the five characters live in this small town, which is slightly behind the times, but still modern. Angel is slightly more 'hip,' and so wears clothes to match her traveling spirit."
The director notes that A Little Bit of Destiny offers very few "major challenges" for the OdysseyStage creative team. "It is well written," Traylor claims, "and the story is easy to follow and present. There were challenges to keep the emotion from overpowering the action at times, and it would have been very easy to let the cast just sit and talk during many of the scenes."
Traylor says, "The play takes place in a kitchen, and eating on stage is always a chore for actors. So, finding the balance between being in a food-centered environment and not finding actions revolving around food was sometimes hard."
He adds, "The biggest challenge this — and probably any — production faces is time. There never seems to be enough. With illnesses, work, and other production schedules to contend with, sometimes it felt as though we were never going to get more than a couple hours each week to delve into the material. But this cast has really pulled up their bootstraps and made the efforts needed to combat our time constraints."
Traylor says, "This play is a slice of life — no controversial revelations or avant-garde production values here. This production continues OdysseyStage's commitment to provide family-oriented entertainment. Audiences looking for entertainment, and possibly a little insight into family binds and the chaffing marks they can leave, should enjoy this show immensely."
OdysseyStage Theatre presents A Little Bit of Destiny Friday-Saturday, March 4-5, 11-12, and 18-19, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 6 and 13, at 3 p.m. in the Robert Seymour Theater at the Chapel Hill Senior Center, 400 S. Elliot Rd., Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $10 ($8 students and seniors). 919/929-4493 or firstname.lastname@example.org. OdysseyStage Theatre: http://www.odysseystagetheatre.org/ [inactive 3/05].