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Cabarrus Magazine

Conquering the Curtain Speech – Dixie Swim Club Style

Aug 08, 2016 03:48PM ● By Jason Huddle

As newly elected Board of Directors President of Old Courthouse Theatre, I knew I would take my turn with the traditional “curtain speech” that welcomes patrons to the theatre. Traditionally, a Board Member would enter the auditorium from the back to welcome attending patrons. Director Jonathan Ewart, my younger brother, had something else in mind. “I want you to enter from the back hallway,” he explained to me during a rehearsal. Back hallway? All I see is a white bookcase against a yellow flat. Jonathan pointed to a center section seat in the auditorium. “Sit there and watch,” he instructed. 

During the rehearsal, the blue and yellow flats transformed into a beach cottage at the NC Outer Banks. The screen door creaks and slams exactly as if it were blown open and shut by the ocean breeze. Beach Music plays in the background, and the sound of ice clinking in glasses signals “Cocktail Hour”…even if the time is the 10 o’clock in the morning hour. I could close my eyes and recall numerous family vacations at the beach just with what I saw and heard. Jonathan and Set Designer Roger Watson created a Carolina beach house right here in Historic Concord.  

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to practice…and that practice starts with learning how to enter the stage! Sure, I’m comfortable with public speaking, but that’s as a corporate classroom instructor or for a group insurance sales presentation. I’m not the actor of the family; that’s Jonathan. Stage Manager Cheryl Opel took me under her wing, just as she does with other new actors. She even scolded me when my cell phone rang. “Now that’s not going to happen on performance nights is it?” she asked, using a combination of Stage Manager slash Kindergarten teacher tone. I may be Board President, but it was very clear who was in charge.  

I’m recalling the advice the actresses gave me in the dressing rooms, which were renovated by Girl Scout Gold Star Award recipient Lizzie Kunesh. “Mary Kathryn, see if you can sell this theatre to

someone,” overachiever Dinah suggested – otherwise known as Nancy Cottingham.  “Just keep it short, sweet, and everything good about me,” narcissistic Lexi, played by Frances Quinn, said while admiring her hair in a dressing room mirror. Glancing out a window as she crossed the room, dark-cloud looming Vernadette, whom I know as Becky Porter, asked, “Water’s not going to come in here right?” I smiled and thought, no, it’s not going to come in. The Cannon Foundation made sure that rain will stay outside OCT’s historic structure.  

Waiting for my cue, I saw swim team captain Sheree, played by Linda Smith, giving me that “you’ve got this” nod as if she was encouraging another swim team member. Melissa Bowden, who plays happy-go-lucky Jeri Neal, warmly embraced me. “Another Ewart on stage with me,” she whispered, instantly relaxing me.   

There’s the sound cue….. Lights up….. “Welcome to Old Courthouse Theatre…”  

Performances continue on the weekends through August 21, 2016. Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00pm; Sunday matinee at 2:30pm. Online tickets may be purchased via, and search “Old Courthouse Theatre”, group sales and reservations may be made by calling the OCT Box Office at 704-788-2405. 

Article By: Mary Kathryn Ewart 

Stage photography by: Jennifer Ritchie

Candid Photography b: Karen Stahl

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