Comedy ‘First Baptist of Ivy Gap’ recognizes female power, full acceptance

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"First Baptist of Ivy Gap" shares the stories and friendships of six women. Photo by Escobar Photography.

Six very different women — the atypical pastor’s-wife, the mother of a soldier, the church’s rebellious organist, the wannabe Hollywood actress, the shy newcomer harboring a secret, and the influential Baptist also keeping a secret — become unlikely friends in Mill Town Players’ “First Baptist of Ivy Gap.”

Known as the “First Baptist Six,” the women bond over rolling bandages during World War II and planning the church’s 75th anniversary. Fast-forward 25 years, and they’re reunited.

“The friendships that they forged years earlier tie them together again as they recount the years apart and find redemption in revealing secrets that might have been kept for too long,” local director Christopher Rose says.

“First Baptist of Ivy Gap” shares messages of strength in community, the power of female experience, and unconditional acceptance and love — with humor and pathos throughout.

“The power of the female voice and experience as a transformational force is a beautiful thread that runs through the story,” he says.

Rose says society as a whole too often overlooks the perspective women bring. “I hope the ladies in our audience walk away with the affirmation that their ideas and perspectives are invaluable treasures and that the gentlemen walk away with a greater respect for how much those voices can change us all for the better,” he says.

Directing a Southern comedy about six women spanning 25 years of experiences posed some challenges for Rose.

“How was I supposed to direct those thoughts and emotions? It would be very easy to slide down the slippery slope of ‘mansplaining,’” he says. Rather than pretending to fully understand the female experience, Rose aimed to let women speak for women.

“I set out to let the words of the characters and, more importantly, the voices of my wonderful actresses be my true north,” he says. “Each one has such a unique emotional color, personal history, cadence, stance, perspective, and story to tell, and they bring that to these characters in such a natural and beautiful way.”

Libby Riggins and DeAnna Gregory in “First Baptist of Ivy Gap.” Photo by Escobar Photography.

Local actress Libby Riggins plays the part of pastor’s wife Edith Ellington — although not the typical pastor’s wife that first comes to mind. 

“It has been liberating playing her this way, especially considering ‘pastor’s wife’ and ‘liberated woman’ are two contradictory terms these days,” Riggins says.

With similar traits as Edith, Riggins enjoys the witty laughs her character adds to the show’s dynamic.

“I say I was typecast because Edith uses humor to help every situation, especially ones that make her feel emotionally vulnerable,” she says. “She is also the peacekeeper, and all is right in her world when everyone is happy.”

Audiences will witness how the First Baptist Six save one another and that, while not biologically related, family can be found in unlikely people.

“We show the love of Christ in this play. Full acceptance, no matter who you are. Full love, with no boundaries and no judgment,” Riggins says. “I hope the audience walks away with this tucked into their heart.”

‘First Baptist of Ivy Gap’

When: May 24-June 9
Where: Historic Pelzer Auditorium, 214 Lebby St., Pelzer
Tickets: $12
Info: www.milltownplayers.org

 

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