Bring out the spotlight.
PJ Searsy is coming out of retirement.
Well, at least for one more performance.
“I miss the theater. I didn’t think I’d miss it this much but I really do,” said the retired director of the Waxahachie Community Theatre.
After heading the WCT for a quarter century, a failing knee prompted PJ’s decision to walk away from the theater last year.
“One week I retired, the next week I was in surgery and have pretty much devoted myself to rehab — which as you know is a full time job. Well maybe you don’t know, but trust me, you’ll get to be my age someday and you’ll understand,” she said, her voice lilting as she spoke, effortlessly transitioning from one thought to the next.
During a chance encounter with Dr. Joe Langley, pastor of Park Meadows Baptist Church in Waxahachie, PJ mentioned that she had always been interested in the opportunity to perform in one of the church’s theatrical performances.
During her tenure with WCT, she had worked closely with several members of the Park Meadows Theater group and had attended many of the church performances.
“Actually,” PJ said in a matter-of-fact tone. “What I asked (Dr. Langley) is if he would temporarily let me join his church so I could perform in one of their plays. He told me that I wouldn’t have to leave my church to do that and thought they could work something out.
“Now how wonderful is that?” she said, quickly segueing into the story of how Park Meadows theater director Rob Nelson re-wrote the part in the upcoming production of “Ignorance is Bliss” just for her.
“The part I play is actually a man’s role but he re-wrote the character as a crazy old aunt who thinks she’s a pirate. It’s a wonderful part. I get to race all over the stage and act like I’m looney as a goat. Now is that not perfect casting or what?” she quipped. “I know what you’re thinking. Am I in character or is this the real PJ?
“The best part is that (WCT veteran) Cheryl Langley plays the role of a psychiatrist who signs the papers to have me committed. Talk about poetic justice. After all of the years I directed Cheryl in Waxahachie Community Theatre productions she has waited a long time for this moment,” said PJ, her quips coming in rapid fire without once breaking cadence.
“The entire play is an absolute hoot. Loosely based on the movie ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ it’s non-stop laughs for the entire family. The costumes are great — oh, I forgot to mention, it is also dinner theater and the food is absolutely wonderful. It’s not you’re typical dinner theater fare where the food is just OK and you’re really there for the show. Park Meadows really does dinner theater right. The food is wonderful, the production is great and all I have to do is act,” she said, noting that while she has performed in many productions of the years, this is only the second time in more than 25 years that she has had to take direction from someone other than herself.
“It’s sort of a new experience for me but I’m kind of liking it,” she said, noting there have been moments during rehearsals when she had to bite her tongue and resist the temptation to tell fellow actors what they should be doing.
The Park Meadows Baptist Church theater department produces several productions throughout the year. Though secular, the plays are family-oriented and all proceeds help fund the church’s summer mission trips for youth.
The production of “Ignorance is Bliss” also includes a few other non-Park Meadows cast members.
“This is really a special performance because it also includes Joe Skrivanek, Ricky and Cindy Crenshaw from Ennis Public Theatre, so you could say it’s a collection of actors from all over Ellis County,” PJ said, quickly jumping into one story after the next of past productions she’s had the opportunity to work with each of the actors over the years.
Like a man flipping through television channels with a remote control on a Sunday afternoon, one story leads into the next until both the teller and the listener forget where it began or where it was going.
“I threw in a couple of pirate metaphors so you would know I was still in character,” PJ quipped. “You were keeping up with that, weren’t you?”
Rounding out the cast of “Ignorance is Bliss” are John Caddell, Marla Bearden, Al Mayo, Sarah Shumaker, Joe Langley, Jena Caddell, Blaine Griffin, Dave Sanders and Cheryl Langley.
Performances are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 16 and Saturday, Sept. 17 at Park Meadows Baptist Church, 3350 U.S. Highway 77 N in Waxahachie.
Doors open for dinner at 6 p.m. both nights.
Tickets are $20 and are available by calling the church at 972-938-7275.
As for her unretirement in theater, PJ said she’s keeping her options open.
“I do love being on stage again. It’s a lot of fun. (My husband) Alan and I are doing a presentation entitled “Texas” for the annual ReAssembly Luncheon at the Ellis County Woman’s Building on Sept. 14,” she said.
“In the theater, it’s always feast or famine, you know,” she said, adding in addition to rehabbing her knee she’s also spent much of the past year writing.
“I’m actually working on several scripts and I enjoy those projects as well. I’ve not been sitting home waiting for the phone to ring,” she said. “We’ll see what the future brings. I would say there’s a good chance you’ll see me on stage again real soon. But then again, I wouldn’t pass up the chance to get your tickets for this show, either.”
Contact Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1457.