Homestretch for “Ham Buns”

English: Grammy's Potato salad
English: Grammy’s Potato salad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was about five years ago that I first sat down at my lap top and began tapping out some lines based on a few loose ideas in my head. What eventually emerged was the script for a stage play in two acts which I entitled “Ham Buns and Potato Salad.” I finished the first draft of the play two and a half years ago and it had its debut at a table reading around our dining room table with some members of a creative small group and their spouses.

It’s been a fascinating creative journey for me. The script has undergone three major revisions, has been “workshopped” at the Missouri Playwrights Association, and we’ve gone through three more local readings with different voices. A week from this Sunday our local community theater will hold the first of two auditions and the play will be on its way for its first (and perhaps last – you never know) production.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from family and friends, so I thought I would answer a few FAQs regarding the play.

What’s the play about?

It’s about secrets, scandal and relationship in a small Iowa town. Twelve years prior to events of the play, a local girl found herself pregnant at the time of high school graduation. She has never said who the father is, which has become a legendary source of speculation for the town’s residents. One of the prime suspects of paternity, Tommy Prins, left town right after high school. Tommy went to college, became a famous writer, and has never once returned home. When both his parents die in a tragic accident, Tommy must return home for the first time and the heat is turned up on the simmering town scandal.

Why is it called “Ham Buns and Potato Salad”?

When I ask most people around here what they think of when I say “Ham Buns and Potato Salad” the response I get 90 percent of the time is “a funeral.” Exactly. In small towns around Iowa there is a traditional “lunch” that is served at practically every funeral reception. One slice of ham in a buttered bun (the Ham Bun) along with potato salad, potato chips, ice tea, coffee, and water. The dessert is likely a choice between brownie and Jello-cake (sometimes referred to as “poke cake” because you poke the top of the cake with a fork before pouring the liquid Jello over the top to let it seep in). The events of the play surround a funeral, and it is the funeral which forces Tommy to return home and face his past. Sometimes, you have to return home whether you want to or not.

How did you come up with it?

Writers are always told “write about what you know.” Much of the play is written from my experiences and observations of small town life while living in Lynnville, Iowa for three years. It’s combined with memories and recollections of regular visits to my grandparents’ home in LeMars, Iowa growing up. The characters are a loose amalgam of people I knew, people I know, and people about whom I’ve heard stories. My family and close friends will likely catch little details that come out right out of old memories and personal experiences.

How many characters are in it?

Five adult males. Four adult females. One girl the age of 11-12.

What kind of play is it?

People have had a hard time labeling it with one clear genre. There is a lot of humor in it, so it’s kind of a comedy (you will laugh). There’s also a very serious undertone, which would make it kind of a drama (bring a hanky, ladies). There’s a romantic story involved (great for a date night or girl’s night out). There’s also a few cliff hangers and twists which would make it a bit of a thriller (you’ll like it too, guys). Why don’t you come see it and tell me what you think it is?

Are you going to be in it, or are you directing it?

The play is being directed by our friend, Ann Wilkinson, who teaches Theatre at Central College. Wendy is auditioning and will likely have a part. My hope is that we will have enough men try out so that I can sit back and watch it come to life on stage without having to be in it. If we don’t have enough men audition, then I will likely be on stage as well. That is usually the case with community theatre.

When is it being performed? How do I get tickets?

April 10-12 at 7 p.m. and April 13 at 2 p.m. at the Pella Community Center. Tickets can be purchased on line starting in mid-March by visiting www.unionstreetplayers.com.

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