New TEA production highlighted by director's return to community theater

Cyndi Bolen is back with company after lengthy absence

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • "The Red Velvet Cake War" will be presented by Theater Ensemble Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21 at the Spotlight Theater at Farmington High School.
  • Tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors.
  • The production continues May 27-29.

FARMINGTON — It's been 15 years since Cyndi Bolen was associated with a Theater Ensemble Arts production, as she was featured in the cast of the company's 2007 presentation of "Steel Magnolias."

But she remained a supporter of the organization as a season-ticket holder over the ensuing years. And she kept in touch with TEA regular Chuck Holmes, a high school classmate and friend who has been badgering her for years to come back to the company and direct a show.

Holmes' persistent lobbying has finally paid off, as Bolen, a theater major in college, will lead the TEA production of "The Red Velvet Cake War" opening this weekend. Bolen acknowledged she had some rust to knock off when rehearsals for the show began, but she said she quickly has fallen back into the routine of being part of a community theater production.

"Once theater's in your blood, it never leaves," she said.

Bolen had talked Holmes into acting in a show she directed many years ago, so she felt like she still owed him a favor when he kept after her to return to the TEA fold. The Farmington native said she resisted his entreaties for many years, but when she read the script for "The Red Velvet Cake War," a raucous comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, she realized the time had come to make good on her debt.

Cyndi Bolen

"Recently, when they did a read-through (of 'The Red Velvet Cake War'), he put a script in my mailbox," she said. "I read it and thought it was hilarious."

Bolen said the material quickly pulled her in.

"I just loved it," she said, "And I realized, 'If I'm ever going to do it, the time has come to do it because the material is so good.'"

Bolen said there is no deep message behind the play — it's simply highly entertaining, escapist fare, perfect for a summer production.

Cindy Reed, left, Clara Johnson, Annette DiGiacomo and Lori Boettler rehearse a scene from the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "The Red Velvet Cake War" opening May 20 at the Spotlight Theater at Farmington High School.

"It's just funny from the first page to the last page," she said. "I love the characters. I love the premise."

The plot involves a plan by cousins — portrayed by Stephanie Lewis and Clara Johnson, Annette DiGiacomo and Lori Boettler — to hold a family reunion in their small Texas town of Sweetgum, Texas, and a high-stakes wager between two of the characters to determine who can bake the best red velvet cake for the event.

The rest of the cast includes Cindy Reed, Jason Dooley, Marty Hill, Debra Mayeux, David Mayeux, Arwin Austin, Robert Bahr, Daniel West and Bolen.

Debra Mayeux, left, and Lori Boettler are featured in the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "The Red Velvet Cake War" opening May 20 at the Spotlight Theater at Farmington High School.

The director said the cast members are all TEA veterans, and she has enjoyed watching her actors make the characters their own.

"As a director, you get a vision in your head of the characters when you read a script," she said. "But that interpretation evolves with who you cast. And I could not be happier (with these actors). They've brought the characters to life in their own unique way. They've done a fabulous job, every single one of them."

Marty Hill is featured in a scene from the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "The Red Velvet Cake War" opening May 20 at the Spotlight Theater at Farmington High School.

That has helped make Bolen's return to the community theater realm an enjoyable one, she said.

"I think you forget how involved it can be," she said of the experience of leading a production. "It does take a lot of time and energy. But we have laughed continuously. And our goal is to have a respite from what's going on in the world."

"The Red Velvet Cake War" will be presented by Theater Ensemble Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, at the Spotlight Theater at Farmington High School, 2200 N. Sunset Ave. Tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at https://theater-ensemble-arts.square.site/ or at the door. The production continues May 27-29. Call 505-326-2839.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.