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Photos by Lucinda Breeding

Southern comfort

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By Lucinda Breeding
Accident-prone Vernadette (Karen Gossett) explains how she came to arrive at the cottage on the beach of North Carolina’s Outer Banks in a clown costume in “The Dixie Swim Club.”<137>Lucinda Breeding<137><137><252><137>
Accident-prone Vernadette (Karen Gossett) explains how she came to arrive at the cottage on the beach of North Carolina’s Outer Banks in a clown costume in “The Dixie Swim Club.”
<137>Lucinda Breeding<137><137><252><137>

Longtime friends convene over the years in ‘Dixie Swim Club’

The five actresses in Denton Community Theatre’s upcoming comedy The Dixie Swim Club are required to flex all of their acting muscles.

The play follows five women — all of whom met on a winning college swim team — through 33 years of life, love and loss.

“They meet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, on the beach, every year,” said actress Dena Dunn, who plays looks-obsessed romantic Lexie.

In the beach cottage, the women tell blue jokes and hard truths — all while maintaining the sweet-and-sour tang of Southern hospitality.

“I think Southern women have very close friends,” said Lana K. Hoover, who reprises her role as the perpetually fit health nut Sheree on the Denton stage. “I think there’s something about Southern women that makes them close to their friends for a long time.”

Dixie Swim Club starts with the women coming back to the beach cottage in their mid-40s. Sheree and Vernadette are married. Dinah, Lexie and Jeri Neal aren’t. The clash of career and families mean some friendships within the five are stronger than others.

“Vernadette likes all of them. She’d like to be a little of all of them,” said Karen Gossett, who plays the role of the slightly incontinent comedian of the bunch.

“I think Sheree is incredibly close to Dinah,” Hoover said. “I think they were roommates in college. They are as different as night and day. Sheree married the [swimming] coach’s son and had children. Dinah didn’t. She’s a lawyer, and Sheree kind of lives vicariously through her.”

Polly Maynard plays the role of sweet-natured and very Catholic Jeri Neal.

“They’re all really close to me,” she said of her character. “I’m more likely to be closest to Vernadette, though. I think she feels kind of protective of her, and tries to take care of her.”

Dunn played the role of self-absorbed Lexie at Theatre Arlington alongside Hoover and Connie Lane, the director of the Denton staging. The comedy is in the same school as Steel Magnolias, with laughter and tears sometimes happening simultaneously.

Lane said the auditions brought a lot of actresses out. She even noticed that a few of the audition forms indicated a wish to be involved backstage if the actresses weren’t cast.

“We actually have understudies for this show, and that’s not something you always have here,” Lane said. “You could see their passion for the show on their audition forms.”

Holly Chant was recruited to understudy the roles of Lexie and Jeri Neal. Barbara McIntyre is understudying the roles of Sheree, Dinah and Vernadette. McIntyre filled in for a week of rehearsals when one of the cast members traveled to Hawaii for her wedding anniversary.

“I think all of us have created a back story for these characters in our heads,” Hoover said. “I think we’ve all thought about the relationships and what they’ve been through. I know I have. I know what my [character’s] kids look like.”

THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB

What: Denton Community Theatre presents the comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and June 13-14 and 2 p.m. Sunday and June 15

Where: Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St.

Details: Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for ages 62 and older, and $10 for students and children. For tickets, visit http://dentoncommunitytheatre.com or call 940-382-1915.