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Actresses return to dying hometown in Naked Stage’s ‘Hollywood, Nebraska’ in Newton

Exploration of family, loss and love in readings of new Kenneth Jones script
Map graphic on a poster for a reading of the play “Hollywood, Nebraska” at Newton Cultural Centre this weekend, Feb. 23-25.

Starting Friday, Feb. 23, three staged readings of “Hollywood, Nebraska” are next for Surrey’s Naked Stage theatre company.

Kenneth Jones’ story will entertain audiences at Newton Cultural Centre during weekend performances that include a Sunday matinee.

The script: In the Great Plains of Nebraska, two actresses return to their dying hometown. Jane’s in from L.A. to check up on her ailing mother. Andrea’s back from New York to bury her father. Can childhood friends find hope in a place they left behind? Fall in love with a new comedy about the urge to be creative, the itch to move away and the power of coming home.

Simon Challenger directs six actors in Newton.

“Heart is a mysterious thing,” Challenger says. “It guides and pushes us in ways that we cannot predict or, perhaps, fully understand. Who we love and how we love are not things necessarily within our power to control.

“For Jane and Andrea it’s clear that although they’ve been gone a long time, there is still a place in their hearts for their hometown, however reluctantly they chose to acknowledge it. We ask you to enjoy this exploration of family, loss and love with open hearts as we bring this story to you.”

Tickets are sold on for performance at 7:30 Friday/Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Actors in the show are Rachelle Beaulieu (Jane), Joyce Gillespie (Alma), Stephen JF Walker (Robert), Sarah Hosta (Katie), Laura Burns (Andrea) and Shane Rochon (Lance).

As with all Naked Stage shows, it’s the stage that’s naked, not performers. The company’s shows don’t have movement, extensive lighting, sound systems or props. The stage is bare except for actors sitting on stools and music stands holding their scripts.

“This method has been used for decades, mainly in universities and schools,” explains a post on Naked Stage’s website. “It also has special appeal to seniors who liken it to old-time radio, where the audience had to listen carefully to fully understand the story.”

The play “Hollywood, Nebraska” is a new one for Jones.

“There’s a small town in far western Nebraska where I’ve spent time, as an outsider, with people I love,” he wrote online. “Its heyday is over. Its population has dwindled to about 2,400. There is drought. Some storefronts are boarded up. There are farms both fallow and fertile. Missile silos that once held weapons aimed at Russia during the Cold War have been decommissioned. For now. An oil boom ended. The railroad cuts through town, but it no longer offers passenger service. Interstate I-80 diverted traffic away from Main Street — the old Lincoln Highway — a long time ago.

“When I first visited there,” Jones continued, “I walked around the one-traffic-light downtown. I browsed at a thrift shop. I took pictures of broken windows at the Wheat Growers Hotel. I attended a church service. I shared dinners and played cards in a parlor with widows who loved to laugh and talk about their history. I was curious and inspired. I wondered about residents past and present — who left? who stayed? and why? — and it all made me think more deeply about what it means to lead a ‘creative life.’ That dot on the map in the middle of nowhere was the jumping off point for my writing ‘Hollywood, Nebraska.’”

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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