Backstage Series reopens with ‘Church and State’ at CPAC

COOKEVILLE – Guns, faith and politics take center stage in Cookeville Performing Arts Center’s Backstage Series production of “Church and State.”

The political comedy – CPAC’s first live show since early March – opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. at 10 E. Broad St. It continues Aug. 15, 18, 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 16 at 3 p.m.

“It’s contemporary, relevant and provocative,” director Kimberly Frick-Welker said.

The story begins three days before U.S. Senator Charles Whitmore’s bid for reelection in the wake of a school shooting in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C. The senator has made an off-the-cuff comment that was leaked on social media, calling into question his stance on guns and God.

“My interest in this play starts with playwright Jason Odell William’s desire to delve into two divisive topics – gun reform and deeply seated religious beliefs – to spark constructive dialogue,” Frick-Welker said. “He does this with heartfelt candidness from the characters but also with humor, which may sound odd, but the situation and reaction mirror real life. That makes the moment feel authentic.”

The setting is present-day North Carolina, just minutes before the senator is to address a crowd of supporters, and then again immediately following the election.

“We see and feel his emotional conflict as he grapples with the shooting at the school his two young boys attend – a shooting that killed sons of family friends,” Frick-Welker said. “We’re privy to dialogue between Charlie and his devoutly Christian wife, Sara, and liberal Jewish campaign manager, Alex. Both women are in damage control mode when Charlie confides that his response to a Christian blogger who attended the funeral could be problematic just days before an election.”

Pat Frank stars as Sen. Whitmore, along with Nancy Dennis Campbell as Sara and Montana Chambers as Alex. The cast also includes Tanner Holmes, Eli Anderson, Josh Mitchell, Sharon Henry, Patrick Mannle, John Fowler and Bill Haas.

“Our three principal actors and supporting cast and crew have been an absolute joy to work with,” Frick-Welker said. “Everyone involved with this production is grateful to get back in the theatre doing what they love.”

Since the story takes place present day, Frick-Welker felt it important to acknowledge COVID-19 as the norm – so the actors are incorporating masks in their performances when appropriate.

Audience members will be required to wear masks.

“Safety is our primary concern,” Frick-Welker said. “For the last seven weeks our cast and crew have been wearing masks at all rehearsals. We are fortunate there is ample space backstage for social distancing, and because this show is presented as a Main Stage production, there is ample room to allow social distance seating for our patrons.”

“Church and State” is the 10th Backstage Series production Frank has been a part of. He said the show couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I never realized the actual need to interact with other humans until COVID-19 made us stay away from each other,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be back on stage with my wonderful friends, especially with this show. Now more than ever we need to come together. This show is important in that respect.”

“Church and State” runs approximately 90 minutes. It is rated PG.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for students and may be purchased HERE.

“I believe our audience will thoroughly enjoy this play and welcome the brief escape live theatre provides,” Frick-Welker said.

For more information, call the CPAC Box Office at 931-528-1313.

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