In the South, the tales are tall and the hair is taller. Sweet tea lingers on the biting tongues of below the Mason-Dixon Line ladies as they sit on verandas, shaded from the warm, golden sunshine. It is a culture that revels in charm and humor.
Local writer Celia Rivenbark is no stranger to the ways of the South; in fact, she’s made a career of both appreciating it and satirizing it. Her ability to evoke laughter seems an innate talent, as she always remembers being the class clown. Rivenbark’s newest book, “Rude Bitches Make Me Tired,” will lend itself to the stage in the coming weeks at TheatreNOW.
The writer has won the coveted encore award for Best Writer for the past several years. Her career spans from small-town journalist to blog-writer to nationally acclaimed writer. Aside from writing scripts for a WHQR fund-raiser a few years ago, this will be her first experience .
Rivenbark’s latest book tackles tricky topics such as how to split those pesky checks at dinner or the age-old quandary of airline-travel etiquette. The production also will touch on dinner-party faux pas and those awful line-jumpers—all subject matter being handled with Rivenbark’s trademark Southern snark. “Rude Bitches” also stands-out as the prolific story-weaver’s first single subject book, making it the perfect selection to adapt to the stage.
“It lends itself better to monologues,” Rivenbark elaborates. “Also the subject matter, lampooning manners, or the lack of manners, is ripe for a talented troupe of actresses to have a ton of fun with.”
In order to properly outfit the book for the stage, Rivenbark has turned to the capable hands of Zach Hanner. His work can be seen all throughout the year at TheatreNOW. His passion for generating original work—particularly in the dinner theatre variety—will once again shine through with this latest venture. Though they’ve met several times to discuss how to best bring the play to life, Rivenbark’s strict adherence to proper etiquette led her to allow the master to take the reins.
“This was my first effort in adapting a book for the stage and it was quite a beast,” Hanner admonishes. “There are so many chapters that it was tough to choose what could stay and what got cut. I chose to cull some of the more graphic descriptions—it is dinner theater after all—and try and keep most of the parts where actual dialogue occurs between the characters.”
The cast is made up of local talents Belinda Keller, Katherine Rudeseal, Jordan Mullaney, and Melissa Stanley. Each actress will take turns emoting as incarnations of Celia. The other actresses will act out different scenarios as the scene Celia narrates. Hanner will make a few appearances as “Duh-Hubby,” a police officer, and a ferocious Carolina basketball fan. The scenes will play out like segments from “The Daily Show” or Weekend Update on “Saturday Night Live.” Though Rivenbark’s only in-person appearance at TheatreNOW throughout the play’s run will be as an attendee, she will be featured every night in a video-introduction to each act.
“This [play] is really well-suited to a dinner theater format,” Rivenbark explains. “Different courses come out with each act, from appetizer to dessert. There is a Southern theme to the meal, and a few foods are chosen because they’re mentioned in the book.”
The meal served will encompass bruschetta tart as a starter to whet theater-goers appetites. The following course will consist of one’s choice of arugula-beet salad served with a chicken breast or salmon filet, country-fried portebello mushroom with mashed potatoes, topped with spinach and roasted red-pepper gravy, or roasted chicken served with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach and pan gravy. Rounding out the meal will be the house-made Southern “nanner” puddin’.
As with all of TheatreNOW’s productions, the stage design, costuming, and props will boast a minimal set in an effort to make transitions smooth. Only a dining room table and chairs will be onstage. The primary set piece will be the screen in the background.
“The big effort was the slide show that features video, music, title cards, and stills,” Hanner details.“It’s very involved and complicated, and we can only hope that we don’t have any tech issues!”
Hanner’s vast experience with dinner theater will ensure that prompts for the next course will come at perfect timing, so as to avoid any jarring moments that distract from performances. As well, tech wiz Steven Coley will undertake the challenge of executing 150 lighting cues to direct audiences to each of the Celias’ “home base,” from which they will deliver their narration.
Given the manners savvy subject matter of “Rude Bitches,” Rivenbark expects viewers to be well-versed in the proper way to watch a play. “My main thing is no one should text during the play,” she reminds. “It’s a small, intimate setting. If I am there and I see that, I will completely call you out on it!” Anyone familiar with the brazen sense of humor that characterizes her books knows that is no bluff.
“Rude Bitches” will make it’s debut this Friday, March 21st, at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale via the TheareNOW website and are going for $36 with a $2 donation to the Interfaith Hospitality Network—an organization that aids families in need throughout the community. As the title suggests, “Rude Bitches” is a production reserved for mature audiences only.
“If you were brought up to have any manners at all,” Hanner proclaims, “you’ll relate to the instances were Celia calls out these seemingly empty-headed people for their rudeness. Overall, it’s a show that is, as an old friend of mine liked to say, ‘so wonderfully wrong!’”
Rude Bitches Make Me Tired
Fri. – Sat. Mar. 21st-22nd, 28th-29th,
April 5th-6th, 11th-12th, 18th-19th, 25th-26th, 7 p.m.
19 S. 10th Street