Theater season has started in Texoma and Butterfield Stage in Gainesville is marking its 40th anniversary season with a salute to its first season. Butterfield Stage’s first show in 1978 was “Plaza Suite” by Neil Simon and four decades later, the acting troupe will be showing the second part of the Simon trilogy “California Suite” this weekend and next weekend.
The play shows Saturday as well as Sept. 21-23. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday show is at 2:30 p.m.
“Be ready for a trip down memory lane to the mid ’70s,” Director Deb Campbell said about the show that is set around the same time the Butterfield Stage theater was founded. “If we had an award to win, this would be an award-winning cast and the shadows and stage crew are amazing too.”
Campbell said that by Wednesday, the show was half sold out for its run.
“It is hard to pick a favorite scene or the scene I am most excited for audiences to see,” she said. “Audiences are subjective. I always tell my actors to be prepared, because different audiences notice different things during each show. Different audiences might find different bits funny.”
Campbell who also directed the Butterfield production “Lost In Yonkers,” a play also written by Simon, said that this show is completely her vision on stage and she had a hand in picking almost everything down to the sconces on the walls.
“We have a cast of 13 members,” Campbell said. “One of the actors is an understudy, but even still that is a really big cast for us.”
California Suite is made up of four scenes: visitors from New York, visitors from Philadelphia, visitors from London and visitors from Chicago and the story is not linear.
“The show is about Suites 203 and 204,” Campbell said. “It’s poignant and very typical Neil Simon. There is a lot of sarcasm. The show is about relationships. I always say Simon’s works are filled with the good, the bad and the hilarious. So you will not laugh at every scene, but there are some belly laugh scenes.”
Since Simon died on Aug. 26, the Butterfield production will also act as a tribute to the Emmy, Pulitzer, Golden Globe, Oscar and Tony Award winning writer. The show will also have a shout out to Burt Reynolds, who died on Sept. 6.
“It was not originally intended to be a tribute to Neil Simon,” Campbell said. “We wanted to honor the 40th anniversary of the theater, but since he passed recently, it only seems right to make it a tribute to him.”
Cast members for the show include Terry Colquit, Shy Rigsby, Thomas Morgan, Briana Fleitman, Jace Birdwell, Lisa Cato, Dan Winters, Debs Clark, Ashlie Hazel and Ty Belger. Also making an appearance in the show will be Kenny Bezner who played in Butterfield’s opening production “Plaza Suite” 40 years ago.
“Gainesville has a tradition of great local community theaters and that has gotten better and better with time,” Campbell said.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 4-17. Season tickets for the Butterfield Stage are currently on sale. With a season ticket, individuals will save 33 percent on single seats for the five main-stage productions for the 2018-2019 season.
The theater is located at 201 S. Denton Street in Gainesville. For more information or for tickets, call 940-665-8152 or 940-665-1284 or visit ButterfieldStage.org.