April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

New Actors Studio of Hope takes off with "Steel Magnolias"

By HSJ Online [email protected]

A local theater group is kicking off its first performances under a new banner and cementing a relationship with a fixture on the Hope Town Square.

The Actors Studio of Hope opened its run of "Steel Magnolias" last weekend at WiLLow LeaVes of Hope. The show continues with Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances this week.

The Actors Studio is primarily being organized by Pete Law and Naomi Fleetwood-Pyle as directors and producers of the performances.

Although its members have directed and performed in many local shows over the past few years, this run of "Steel Magnolias" is the first under the new organization and indicates a new commitment to bringing these sorts of shows to Hope on a regular basis.

Vickie Tedder, co-owner of WiLLow LeaVes, said regular live performances were part of the plans for WiLLow Leaves of Hope when it opened at the site of the former Strawberry Fields on the north side of the Hope Town Square.

"I think Hope needs a destination and that was the whole purpose of having this building as phenomenal as it is, big and with the stage," Tedder said.

Tedder said that performances such as those by the Actors Studio and the monthly country music, Opry shows are going to be the activities needed to drive more tourism. She said the previous shows have raised awareness and it seems like each show brings new people to town. Overall, it has been a great fit, she said.

"These guys are just so excited about it," Tedder said. "I think it is kind of like a dream come true, of finding a place to call home for them and knowing they can be here in this atmosphere and this venue for them. It is just exciting for Pete and Naomi to be able to do this. It is their passion."

Law is a teacher at Hope Elementary in his full-time job, but has a passion for the stage. He said that the germ of an idea of an organized Actors Studio started in 2013 with the Hope Welcome Center. The group was looking to bring people to town and wanted to know if Law would put his theater talents to use to stage a production at Strawberry Fields for Valentine's Day. He and a friend did a reading of "Love Letters" and had a surprisingly large crowd, even though there was little promotion.

"That was kind of my signal that we were able to get people to come to live theater," Law said.

Subsequent plays began bringing in hundreds of visitors including shows at Strawberry Fields, WiLLow LeaVes and at Simmons Winery.

WiLLow LeaVes has invested in professional quality lighting and a sound system, making that the studio's permanent home. With the permanent home came a need for a permanent name -- The Actors Studio of Hope.

"We are partnered with WiLLow LeaVes, but we are our own entity," Law said.

Previous performances had been produced under the name of his production company, 626 Productions, and Fleetwood-Pyle's company Flowers from The Woods. "Steel Magnolias" is the first show under the new banner.

The Actors Studio has a core of about 20 actors, Law said.

"This is really our first official (show), with our name on the program and everything," Law said.

Law said that he and Fleetwood-Pyle have decided on a full, five-show season of shows for the next year and a half:

  • "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in November

  • "The Buddy Holly Story" in February

  • "Spirit" In April

  • "Lend Me a Tenor" in July 2017

  • "Southern Hospitality" In October 2017

    Tedder said last week that there were still a few slots left for each of the remaining performances of "Steel Magnolias."[[In-content Ad]]
  • HOPE