Hard times tend to bring out different emotions in people.
Whether it is the loss of a family member, a drifting relationship, or losing a job you loved, circumstances can get in the way of everyday life.
And when these events happen, sometimes you need a person who can help youforget about these problems, if only for a little while.
Throughout January, the Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Idaho (ARTI) will be tackling this topic, and others, on stage in its own dramatic and comedic way with the play “Savannah Sipping Society.”
In what is described as “a sweet, touching story about four women who, by chance, meet and become friends” by the play’s director Lynn Crowley, “Savannah Sipping Society” is the latest performance in the long history of ARTI in Idaho Falls.
“That’s what this story is about – just becoming friends and a family,” Crowley said.
Throughout the play four women who have tackled recent struggles bond while helping each other through their “traumatic life changes.”
“Of the four gals, one is widowed, one divorced, and one lost her job and they’re just kind of floundering,” Crowley said. “The one who gets involved decides to become their life coach, and helps them get the spark back into their lives.”
Lexie French, who plays one of the main characters Marlafaye Mosley, was drawn to this message.
“They, as middle-aged women, decide that life is not over, and there is always time to re-energize your life,” she said. “And through the course of this, they discover that they have this friendship and bond that is created.”
In a theater that typically describes its performances as “for mature audiences only,” according to Crowley, “Savannah Sipping Society” provides a nuanced show that hits comedic and emotional feelings.
“There’s a lot of humor and fun stuff, but then there are a lot of meaningful and poignant parts to it as well,” Crowley said.
Auditions for “Savannah Sipping Society” began in October, with weekly rehearsals being held until opening day. And it can be a strenuous yet rewarding burden for the performers.
“We started out (rehearsing) three nights a week, and as it got closer we rehearsed for four nights a week,” French said. “By the time we’re through with the play, it will have been four months. ARTI gets four plays a year, so you can see how much time it takes for not only the actors but directors.”
But it has been a lifelong passion for those who put in the effort.
“We really strive to do Broadway-caliber shows” Crowley said. “We really work on perfecting this. It’s not just a thrown together thing. We really put a lot of time and effort into the shows, the catering, and making sure it’s a nice, pleasant evening for everybody.”
Since 1986, ARTI has provided a dash of Broadway to eastern Idaho. With a cast and crew of mostly volunteers, the group has evolved from a revolving door of small venues to its own theater. There were several headaches along the way.
In 2011, a fire nearly destroyed the group’s downtown theater, which opened in 2000. ARTI lost most of its props and costumes in the flames.
“The fire was pretty devastating,” French said. “But the show went on.”
From those ashes, the community provided ARTI with the support and motivation to continue.
“From donations and patron support, the growth we’ve been able to see has been awesome,” Crowley said. “They’ve helped us grow from one little venue to another. It has just grown, and I hope to see it grow from here.”
Since the theater renovations were completed in the months following the fire, ARTI has seen a significant uptick in both exposure and sales within the region, in part to its uniqueness within the community.
“The theater is an asset to Idaho Falls,” French said. “Everywhere needs different kinds of theater, and fortunately for Idaho Falls, we do have several opportunities for a lot of cultural things to happen; more so than a lot of towns this size.”
The ARTI Theater performance of “Savannah Sipping Society” will run every Thursday through Saturday until the end of January. Tickets are $35, which include dinner, and can be purchased at artidaho.org or at the theater on 257 Broadway St.
Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763.