‘Funny Money’: Community Theater Play Begins Friday | Local News

Three days before opening night, Steve Bice, a tailor by trade and sound designer for the Auburn-area Community Theater, nailed images to the wall shelf of “Funny Money.”

The smell of dust scorching the stage lights filled the performance hall that Auburn ACT shares with a number of other area performance groups at the Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center. The cast members moved around, warming up the thick British accents and slamming the prop doors to make sure the newly hung paintings wouldn’t budge.

“Every time we do a show, we use the exact same pieces, except in different configurations,” Bice explained. “We are doing incredible things with the constraints that we are under.”

On Tuesday, Bice put the finishing touches to the “Funny Money” set, which opens Friday evening.

Auburn ACT’s spring performance features eight volunteer actors from all walks of life and tells the story of Henry Perkins, an accountant from Fulham, England, who finds a suitcase full of cash on the subway.

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“It’s a very broad, fast-paced, silly comedy of confusion. … It’s funny. It’s a lot of fun,” said Andrea Holliday, director of Funny Money and staffer at East Alabama Medical Center. “It’s just my favorite thing: a big, silly comedy.”

Graphic designer Griff Smith plays Detective Davenport, a rogue cop who takes advantage of Perkins’ situation. Smith was playing in an improv band Opelika when he met Holliday and became involved with Auburn ACT.

“It’s a rush. I’m in a pretty creative field, but it’s like exercising a different brain muscle,” he said.

Smith added that the group had developed an unusual sense of camaraderie.

“It’s really unique to theater because your cast is your team, but they’re also your rivals,” he said. “Everyone wants to get a little tan in the spotlight, but I think that’s what makes it good.”

While playing with Auburn ACT is a creative version for Smith, for Auburn University Counseling Education Ph.D. student Brittain Bright, playing is a form of self-care.

“It helps me find balance in my life,” she said.

Bright plays Betty Johnson, Perkins’ outgoing best friend.

“She’s kind of like the flirtatious, bubbly friend who always likes to get in trouble,” Bright said. “She is very different from me. It’s nice to be able to break free.

All members of Auburn ACT are volunteers. They are professors from Auburn University, store managers and local professionals.

“They can’t stay away,” Holliday said. “I’m fascinated by the whole right-brain/left-brain part.”

The group shares space with a number of other community performance groups, from square dancers to belly dancers. They quickly built and painted the set for “Funny Money” the weekend before opening night. For the previous eight weeks, the actors rehearsed in different classrooms from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. three nights a week.

Holliday inspected the nearly completed set on Tuesday.

“You look around and you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty neat,'” she said. “It’s a community theatre. We like to feel quite professional for a community theater.

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