‘Belles: The Reunion’ to host playwright on opening night
By MIKE COOK
Las Cruces Bulletin
Long-time Las Cruces director (and actor) Gail Wheeler has assembled an all-star cast for her play “Belles: The Reunion,” which opens Friday, Sept. 30 at Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main St.
downtown, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 16.
Playwright Mark Dunn, who lives in Santa Fe, will attend the production’s opening night on Sept.
30. He also was in the audience for Wheeler’s production of the play’s prequel, “Belles,” which LCCT staged in 2014.
“Since the original ‘Belles’ and its 25-yearslater sequel ‘Belles: The Reunion’ are so tightly connected, both in terms of characters as well as identical staging, it becomes a special treat to see both shows produced by the same theater and especially nice to have both in the hands of the same director,” Dunn said.
“My idea in writing ‘Belles: The Reunion’ was to make it understandable and enjoyable to an audience that had never even heard of the original ‘Belles,’ but I also wanted to reward audiences that were familiar with the original play, so they could enjoy the trajectory of the characters over the years,” he said.
“When Mary (Dunn’s wife) and I drove down to see ‘Belles,’ I didn’t know what to expect, having never attended a performance at LCCT before, and also over so many years I think I’d seen probably 15 different productions of ‘Belles’ and was a little burned out on it. But the LCCT production, under the talents of both Gail and a wonderful cast, was a delight all the way through. I loved the way it was done and was able to shake off quite a bit of that jaded attitude I’d had about that play.
I should add that it was the LCCT production of ‘Belles’ that inspired me to tackle the sequel. This was, in fact, the last production of ‘Belles’ I saw before I started working on ‘Belles: The Reunion,” he said.
The only cast member from the 2014 LCCT production of “Belles” returning for the sequel is Nora Brown, but she’s playing a different character than she did two years ago.
The cast also includes Susan Smith, Lennie Brown, Karen Buerdsell, Caryl Kotulak and Mary Huhmann.
“When you see these six together, they all look like they could be in the same family,” Wheeler said. All six characters are on the phone with each other throughout the play, just like the original “Belles.”
In the first play, the sisters are discussing what to do about their mother.
In the sequel, they are discussing the same topic, except their mother is now in a home. “This is another drop in with ‘What’s up with mother,’” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said she chose to direct “Belles” two years ago after a search for a play that featured an all-woman cast. She also liked the simple set and “the parameter of the phone calls. That’s an interesting thing to have to deal with,” Wheeler said.
“The thing I like about the playwright and the women – they’re very full characters and they’re very interesting,” she said. “I love the idea of families sticking together through adversity.”
Wheeler, who has become Facebook friends with Dunn, said his ability to write believable women characters was a major factor in her
SEE ‘ BELLES’, PAGE 46
Actors Caryl Kotulak, left, and Lennie Brown in rehearsal as director Gail Wheeler looks on.
BULLETIN PHOTO BY MIKE COOK