‘Reinvention of Lily Johnson’ brings political comedy to Smyrna Opera House

While some may say this political season has provided its share of laughs already, Saturday night’s play at the Smyrna Opera House may provide even more.

“The Reinvention of Lily Johnson,” written by Smyrna’s Jim Hawkins and starring Camden native Samantha Simpson, tells the tale of a wife of a congressman whose husband has an affair with a teenage intern.

But instead of standing by her man, she decides to run against him in a primary that is only four days away.

“The setup is not that unusual — a wife whose politician wife cheats on him and then stands up next to him during the announcement and pretends to smile. But I thought ‘Let’s do something different and have a strong woman not put up with her husband and run against him in the primary,’ ” Mr. Hawkins said.

“That is the initial basis of the first scene so I’m not giving much away.”

In the play, Lily attempts to rebuild her life while battling the political establishment and all of the dirty dealing that comes with it.

Samantha Simpson

Samantha Simpson

Ms. Simpson is the only actor on stage during the play with various actors heard as offstage voices, including some from the local area.

After 25 years as United Methodist minister, including a 14 years at Asbury United Methodist Church in Smyrna, and a stint as a newspaper reporter in Southern California, Mr. Hawkins, a Wilmington native, decided to retire and take up studying theater.

He wrote the play two years ago in a graduate course while studying at Villanova University.

“It was a class in solo performance where normally you would write a piece and then perform it yourself,” he said.

“One assignment was where you drew a name out of a hat and then anonymously write something for another person. I drew Sam’s name out of the hat and knowing she was a strong woman, I knew this was something she could do.”

The play got a great reaction from his classmates and it was expanded into a full-length work. He staged it at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia in June and July.

““I am thrilled to play Lily, with all of her virtues and imperfections,” said Ms. Simpson.

“Jim has written a character in Lily who is not only autonomous, assertive and intelligent, but also a bit vindictive, hasty and at times oblivious to certain issues. In other words, he has written a woman who is a human being, neither an accessory to a man, or an unattainable Madonna of a woman set apart from others on a pearly white pedestal.”

Best Bets logo -NEWThe play is directed by another Villanova classmate, Lauren Davenport, who is a graduate of Ursuline Academy in Wilmington.

Saturday’s show at the Smyrna Opera House will be its Delaware debut.

“People in Philadelphia seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Those who saw it from Delaware wanted it to come here and there were also those in Delaware, who couldn’t make the trip,” Mr. Hawkins said.

“The opera house reached out to stage it here and I knew (Ms. Simpson) lived in Philadelphia and wasn’t sure if she’d be interested in coming down. I didn’t want to pressure her but she was eager to bring this to life again.”

Although the play is set in the world of politics, Mr. Hawkins says it’s not overtly political.

“It’s not Democratic or Republican. But it brings up certain themes and I do hope it makes the audience think and laugh and keeps them entertained,” he said.

With the presidential campaign in full swing, he thinks this is a good time for audiences to see the play.

“I wrote it two years ago so I had no idea what a wacky election year this would be. But I think it does provide a chance for laughs and reflection in the midst of the year and I did want to get it back on stage before the election this year,” he said.

“The Reinvention of Lily Johnson” is one of a few plays Mr. Hawkins has written but the first to be produced.

Once he retired from the ministry in 2011, he wanted to give writing plays a try.

“I had been writing skits as part of the worship service but I wanted to something more long form,” he said.

Classes at the University of Iowa, the Sewanee Writers Conference and Villanova University followed.

He is also a member of The Foundry playwriting group in Philadelphia, which is designed to help emerging writers develop their craft while also giving them insight into the business of theater and providing networking opportunities.

So what’s next for “Lily Johnson”?

“To be honest, I haven’t thought much past Saturday night,” Mr. Hawkins said.

“I just hope people will be entertained by it.”

Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 Smyrna Opera House members, senior citizens and military, and $8 for children younger than 12. Content is not suitable for children younger than 10.

They can be purchased at www.smyrnaoperahouse.org, by calling 653-4236 or stopping by the box office at 7 W. South St.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 6:45. A cash bar will be available.

5th Dimension in Harrington

As part of the On Stage — Harrington lineup, The 5th Dimension with Florence LaRue will perform at 8 p.m.

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Florence LaRue and The 5th Dimension will perform at Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. (Submitted photo)

Saturday at Exhibit Hall.

The group was originally supposed to be play Jan. 23 but that show was canceled due to inclement weather. Tickets

will be honored Saturday.

The group, with original member Ms. LaRue, has sold over 20 million records worldwide, had 22 Top 40 hits, five No. 1 hits and six Grammys.

Their classic songs include ”Up, Up, And Away,” “One Less Bell To Answer,” “Last Night I Didn’t Get To Sleep at All,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” and “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine in.”

Tickets for the show are $34 and can be purchased at the gift shop or the above number and at www.harringtonraceway.com.

Robin to play concert

Also Saturday, musician Janet Robin will play a concert at the Wyoming Ice House Saturday at 7 p.m.

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Janet Robin performs at the Wyoming Ice House Saturday. (Submitted photo)

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Janet Robin performs at the Wyoming Ice House Saturday. (Submitted photo)

Ms. Robin’s guitar work as a former featured touring member of the Lindsey Buckingham Band, Meredith Brooks Band and Air Supply. Her abilities as a guitarist have garnered the admiration of many in the music industry including Guitar World Magazine, where she was just recently named one of the “Top 10 Female Guitar Players.”

The Ice House is at 200 Southern Blvd.,Wyoming.

Tickets are $15 and attendees are encouraged to bring beverages and food.

For more information, call 632-7282.


Stylistics at Schwartz

It was announced this week that Russell Thompkins Jr. and The New Stylistics will perform at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.

The Stylistics were formed in 1968, when members of two other Philadelphia soul groups joined forces after their respective bands dissolved. During the early ’70s the group had 12 straight Top 10 hits, including “You Are Everything,” “Break Up to Make Up” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”

Mr. Thompkins is the original lead singer of the group.

Tickets are on sale for $30 to $45 and can be purchased by visiting schwartzcenter.com, calling 678-5152 or visiting the box office at 226 S. State St.

Festival art chosen

Finally, the Rehoboth Beach Film Society’s board of directors recently announced that K.E. Jiminez’s mixed media on paper art submission titled “Tranquility” was selected as the art theme for the 19th anniversary of the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival.

“Tranquility” will be the theme of the poster, program, ads, T-shirts and other collateral materials.

Ms. Jiminez is a self-taught professional artist and illustrator. She is the third born of 10 siblings, and has always loved art and used it as a means of communication. See more of her work at www.artistviewstudios.weebly.com

Bids for the framed original art “Tranquility” will be accepted during the film festival Nov. 4-12 through a silent auction process held at the new Cinema Art Theater, Lewes.

“The film society appreciates the work of all the artists who create a special piece of art specifically oriented for this event. The individual creativity and talent that is displayed in each submission is enjoyable to view as well as challenging to judge,” said board president Allen Stafford.

The film society will again invite artists to submit work for the 2017 film festival. Artists interested in participating in this process should visit the society website (www.rehobothfilm.com) for guidelines and due dates.

Now showing

New in theaters this weekend is the true-life action/adventure “Deepwater Horizon,” the comedy “Masterminds” and the family film “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 3D.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “X-Men Apocalypse” and the horror film “The Purge: Election Year.”

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