story by Rhonda Crone, special to The City Wire
photos courtesy of Arts Center of the Ozarks
SPRINGDALE — A comedy in the tradition of the hilarious Harvey Korman and Tim Conway sketches from the old Carol Burnett show is coming to the Arts Center of the Ozarks on Friday (Sept. 7).
The show, The Queen of Bingo, was first produced in Chicago in 1993 at the Theatre A Go-Go. Written by Jeanne Michels and Phyllis Murphy, Bingo is about two 50-something sisters, Sis and Babe, who seek some excitement in life. They’re lucky enough to find it, though the source of their newfound happiness isn’t what one would think. They “find” themselves among the Bingo cards at St. Joseph’s Church.
ACO regulars Robbie Elliot and Ann Ayres play the leads of Babe and Sis, and Father Mac of St. Joe’s will be played by Billy Paul, who hasn’t performed on the ACO stage in 12 years.
There’s great chemistry between the actors, which makes any play more enjoyable. Although Elliott and Ayres have been in multiple plays, this is the first time the two women have been in a production together. During a recent rehearsal, an onlooker remarked that Elliot and Ayres truly act like sisters.
Harry Blundell, theater director at ACO, estimates that The Queen of Bingo is the 185th he’s directed since he went to work at the theater 37 years ago.
He needed to look no further than the phone book to find employment.
Blundell was in graduate school at the University of Arkansas, and as a student, he was told he’d have to wait a year to direct.
“That wasn’t going to work for me,” he says.
He looked up listings for arts centers in the area (ACO was about all there was back then), he secured an interview and was hired to direct an Agatha Christie play, Ten Little Indians, in March 1975. He was then hired as a designer for The Music Man the following July, and ended up playing the lead of Harold Hill when they discovered he could also sing and act.
He says he was simply in the right place at the right time.
His wife, Kathi, had been working on a state arts initiative to place artists in grass roots arts centers throughout the state and by the time the grant money ran out, the ACO board decided they wanted the couple to stay. Kathi is now administrative director at ACO.
Produced in small theaters across the country since 1993, The Queen of Bingo sure to be a fun experience.
“The audience will be a participant in the show and someone will be lucky enough to walk away with a turkey after intermission,” said Blundell.
And who isn’t in the market for a free turkey?
The show runs Friday through Sunday (Sept. 7-9) and Sept. 14-15. Shows are 7:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets can be bought here.