The Kitchen Witches co-stars two of the Valley's most popular and accomplished actresses, Janis Webb as Dolly and Shari Watts as Isobel, the two delightful dueling domestic divas. Also featured in the cast are Will Hightower, Andy Jacobs and .Jillyn Jacobs. The scenic design is by Sharon Gonwa and costumes the handiwork of Emily Rubin and Joe Navan.
The man responsible for mixing, stirring and mastering the comedy in Ms. Smith's play is director Jack White. White recently spoke to The Examiner about himself and his recipe for laughter in The Kitchen Witches.
Q: The Kitchen Witches playwright Caroline Smith is little know in the States. What can you tell us about her?
A: She is a Canadian. She wrote the play for a theater group that she is, I believe, either the Artistic Director or Resident Playwright. The Kitchen Witches premiered in Canada and there is a sequel called, I believe, The Kitchen Witches Plan a Wedding. I don't know if the second play is published yet or not.
Q: What can you tell us about The Kitchen Witches?
A: Obviously, it's a raucous comedy but it is also a touching play about friendship and family. This is story of two women who grew up together, were best friends forever. Then a man came between them and their friendship. Throughout the course of the play we learn more and more about their past and what has made them such bitter enemies. The two women are fabulous cooks and by a trick of fate are cajoled into co-starring in a Cable Access cooking show. The cooking divas gradually learn to get along but they do continue to bicker hilariously. Some things never change.
Q: Is the play all slapstick and insult comedy or is it more character driven?
A: It's definitely character driven. There's a lot of humor and some physical comedy as well. For me, as a director, I tend to work more from the inside out with a play's characters. I was fortunate enough to get an excellent cast of actors for The Kitchen Witches who work in the same way as I do. To me, the play's humor comes from inside. There are a lot of straight, funny lines and sight gags but what really gives the play its texture is its characters and their development.
Q: What is it like working with two of the Valley's most amazing actresses, Janis Webb and Shari Watts?
A: They are probably two of the most professional and talented actresses I have ever worked with. Their work ethic is unquestionable. Webb and Watts have a remarkable simpatico. Both immediately pick up on the character subtleties that I am looking for. They will try anything I ask them to do and remember to do it again the same way the next night. This is a line heavy show and they were both off script after only two weeks so we could begin working with all the props. There are so many props in the show, cooking utensils, bowls, a lot of food. These women have made my life so incredibly easy. They are a joy to work with.
Will Hightower co-stars with Mmes. Webb and Watts playing the character of Stephen, the son. When I first moved back to Phoenix, I taught theater at Deer Valley High School for four years and Hightower was one of my students. Now he is in this show. It has been very gratifying for me to watch his maturation as an actor and a young man. It really had been a treat working with him again too.
Q: Is this the first time you are working with Tempe Little Theatre?
A: No, I directed The 1940's Radio Hour for them about four years ago. The season before last, I acted in a show that Janis Webb directed, Murder Among Friends.
Q: What other theater companies have you worked with in the Valley?
A: I have worked with Desert Foothills up in Carefree and North Valley Playhouse, which is now unfortunately defunct. I did about four shows up there with North Valley Playhouse.
Q: What do you prefer more, acting or directing?
A: Directing! I believe I am a better director than actor. I enjoy acting if the part is right. I started in theater when I was in High School. I had a marvelous teacher named Anne Tully. I learned acting and directing from her. I directed my first show in High School but it was really when I got to ASU that I discovered that I could be very good at it. Directing comes very naturally to me. I enjoy it. I am very confident in my work.
Q: Do have a favorite play that you've worked on?
A: I directed a production of Book of Days by Lanford Wilson about three years ago. I must have carried that play around with me for almost three years looking for an opportunity to direct it. Both Janis Webb and Shari Watts were in it. It was probably the first time that I was able to do a show that I truly loved and was excited about. I did it at North Valley Playhouse.
Q: Is there a play that is high on your wish-list to do?
A: I have always wanted to direct Jesus Christ Superstar. There is another show that I would like to do. It's The Anatomy of Gray by Jim Leonard.
Q: Do you have any funny/odd stories from a play that simply drove you mad?
A: I had one unforgettable experience in High School. I was in a play and when I came off stage at intermission there was a strange guy standing there behind the set. After a few minutes I realized he hadn't moved and I asked him what he was doing? He told me that he was holding the set up. It had become loose and was going to fall and he was just going to stand there and attempt to hold it in place without telling anybody. When we found out what was wrong we re-secured the flat so it would not fall on the actors.
Q: What's up next for you?
A: I have nothing planned, nothing specific. If there is a show that comes along that has a part for me, I will probably audition for it.
The complete TLT 2010-11 season:
The Kitchen Witches September 17 to October 3
The Agony and the Agony November 19 to December 5
Grey Gardens March 18 to April 3
Getting Sara Married May 13 to May 29
Production photos by Dennis Webb and graphic artwork courtesy of Tempe Little Theatre.
For more information regarding subscriptions for the upcoming 2010-11 season, individual ticket prices, availability and/or updated performance schedules, please contact Tempe Little Theatre directly, either by telephone at (480) 350 8388 or ON LINE.
Tempe Little Theatre at Tempe Center for the Arts 700 West Rio Salado Parkway Tempe Town Lake Tempe 85281