ENGLEWOOD — Ever since Elizabeth Spicer cast Justin Harrington in “Dog Show,” he’s dreamed of becoming a film actor.
Now with the production of “Englewood: the Soap!”, the 14-year-old may be taking that first step.
Spicer is producing director of the Paradise Acting Company, an Englewood-based nonprofit dedicated to developing actors and organizations associated with the performing arts.
Spicer wrote and directed “Englewood: the Soap!”, which she describes as a campy soap opera that draws on local themes, places and the chaos that can sometimes be found in a small town.
“Don’t miss it. You might be in it,” is the play’s production slogan.
Part of the proceeds from the play, which will be performed May 2 to May 5, will fund Justin’s trip to Orlando to participate in the New York Film School summer program. The rest of the proceeds will go to cast and crew.
Harrington is a student at Imagine Charter School in North Port.
“We wanted to help him because he doesn’t have the funds and he’s extremely talented,” Spicer said.
Spicer developed the concept for the play 20 years ago.
“Everything had to be rewritten to reflect the current local situation,” she said.
The original play was written to reflect the city of Louisville, Ky. “Louisville: the Soap!” had a successful fiveyear run, Spicer said. The show in Atlanta was called “Marietta: the Soap!” Spicer also produced a Port Charlotte show, “Crackerville.” It took her three years to develop “Englewood: the Soap!”
“When we do a production, I see what’s funny about the area and what stands out,” Spicer said. “Can you find anyone (in Englewood) who can explain what the ‘Pasty Shop’ is?”
Spicer describes the play as scripted, but with moments of improvisation.
“It’s a very campy soap opera,” she said. “Characters are fictional, but talk about current figures. The characters remain the same in that they’re Southern, except for the villains.”
Spicer said she picked Englewood because people come from all walks of life to enjoy the beaches and ecotourism. She said she found some chaos surrounding Englewood events, activities and institutions during her research.
“Chaos can be funny,” Spicer said. “For example, it can be very funny how the Englewood-Cape Haze Chamber has had a variety of directors. The play is irreverent. Nothing in the play is politically correct.”
Local actors shine
“Englewood: the Soap!” stars Englewood resident Paul Mullen, North Port residents Allyson Dalton, Nate Cooley and Justin; Port Charlotte residents Gary Grossman and Carissa Denver and Venice resident Jim Walsh.
“It was a really fun experience for me,” said Denver, who plays Brenda, a local starlet. “The cast has been super funny and professional. (Brenda) thinks she has everyone wrapped around her finger. I wish I was more like Brenda. I’ve never played a character as big as she is. She has quite the ego and she’s quite controlling.”
Mullen plays Wilhelm, an oddball with big plans.
“Wilhelm is one of the evil characters,” Mullen said. “Spicer did a good job researching. There were things I didn’t even know like restaurants and stores I haven’t even heard of like the Pasty Shop.”
Walsh plays Biff, a mix of Mr. Magoo and Thurston Howell from “Gilligan’s Island.”
“He’s a well-meaning guy who wants to help,” Walsh said. “The play is more of a satire. There are references to real places, things, events and people. It’s been fun working with the cast.”
Audience interaction is an important element in “Englewood: the Soap!”
Curtains go up at 7 p.m. May 2, May 3 and May 4 and at 2 p.m. May 5 at the Englewood Sports Complex, 1300 S. River Road. Tickets are $10. Go to http://www.paradiseactingcompany.com or call 941-830-3903.