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'The Rainmaker' opens Buck Creek Players' 45th season

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Joe Wagner attempts to throw a fake punch at File, played by Corey Yeaman, after the two get into a disagreement while Wagner, his brother and father are in the midst of trying to woo File to date Lizzie.
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Jenni White rehearses with Matt Spurlock (far left), who plays her brother Noah, and Joe Wagner, who plays her other brother, Jim, during Wednesday’s rehearsal of “The Rainmaker.”
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Starbuck, played by Steve Jerk, talks to Lizzie after showing up at the Curry family’s home promising to make it rain for $100.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

In community theatre, it’s not uncommon for performers, directors and even those who work backstage to have made local connections that can lead to future opportunities on stage.

That does not guarantee, however, a spot in a cast.

Take for example Jenni White.

As Claudia Draper in the Buck Creek Players production of “Nuts,” she worked closely with actor Tim Latimer, who played her father, Arthur Kirk, as well as director Tim Spradlin.

White found a new opportunity with Buck Creek’s current show, “The Rainmaker.”

Spradlin is once again directing and Latimer is again playing her father, but those connections didn’t guarantee she would be on stage.

White reached out to Spradlin after finding out about the current show, but just like with “Nuts,” had her reservations about getting the lead role in Lizzie Curry.

“I went, ‘I’m probably too old for this part! He’s like, ‘Oh girl, please,’” she said with a laugh.

When she arrived at the audition, she said every girl who auditioned for the role was 10 years younger or more. That didn’t stop her.

“Lo and behold here I am with a beautiful wig that makes me 10 years younger,” she said on Wednesday before rehearsals began. “So I’ll take it.”

To his credit, Spradlin said he tries not to allow experiences with previous cast members cloud his judgement in choosing a cast, calling it a “double-edged sword.” There are times when he sees an actor he’s worked with before who fits the part and is cast. On the other hand, if an actor was difficult to work with in a previous show, that could affect his decision as well.

Connections in local theatre only go so far, White said.

“After (a certain) point, you have got to earn the work that you are given,” she said. “It’s our job as actors to prove ourselves in that moment of the audition.”

Latimer said he had great respect for White for the job she did in “Nuts.”

Their father-daughter relationship is far different in “The Rainmaker,” White said, calling it “diametrically opposed.”

“It’s been wonderful to get to explore a nurturing, loving relationship with Tim’s character in the show and being able to see those qualities in him, because I sure did not see any of the qualities of the other father in him so it’s just been really lovely getting to know him on a different level this year,” she said.

The show is set during the Depression. Stuck in the middle of a drought and in need of rain for their dying cattle, the Curry family – H.C. (played by Latimer), along with his sons, Jim (played by Joe Wagner) and Noah (played by Matt Spurlock) – are as concerned about Lizzie’s future as they are the cattle.

The three men attempt to set her up with File (played by Corey Yeaman), a sheriff’s deputy, but after that doesn’t work, a man who goes by the name of Starbuck (played by Steve Jerk) shows up at their home. He claims to be a “rainmaker,” and promises to make it rain for $100, and in the process helps Lizzie see herself in a new way.

“The themes of the show are universal,” Wagner said. “The emotions of a family dynamic are universal. Noah’s really mean to everybody but it’s because he loves everybody. It’s a family expressing love the only way they know how and it’s different in all four characters.”

The strength in the show is in its relatability to real life, Latimer said.

“They’re going to see characters in the play that resemble some of their own family members,” he said. “‘Oh that’s just like my brother Ed,’ or ‘That’s just like my sister Dorothy.’ People are going to relate to it because it’s family. It’s the strength of the show, it’s the strength of the director and it’s the strength of the cast. It’s all three.” “The Rainmaker” opens Buck Creek Players’ 45th season. The actors all noted the professionalism at Buck Creek that enticed those who have performed there before to come back, and in Wagner’s case, join for the first time.

Spurlock said Buck Creek is known in local community theatre circles for its set designs and quality of work.

“I always wanted to be a part of this theatre,” he said, noting his hour-long commute to Buck Creek prevents him from being more involved. “Scott (Robinson, who is in charge of marketing), Tim (Latimer), everybody involved here, you walk in the place and you’re family.”

The show opened this weekend and there will be a performance at 2:30 p.m. today at Buck Creek Players, 11150 Southeastern Ave. in Indianapolis. There are three more shows, at 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 12.

Admission is $18 for adults and $16 for children, students and senior citizens (ages 62 and older). Reservations can be made at www.buckcreekplayers.com or by calling 317-862-2270.