A Bad Year For Tomatoes: A Good Year For Production


The Copper Hills Theater produced their annual play, A Bad Year for Tomatoes, starring Abigail Shelley as Myra Marlowe and Brennan Buhler as Myra’s friend and agent, Tom Lamont. The play was written by John Patrick and directed by Mr. Brigham Blackham. The cast worked tirelessly to bring the best show they could provide to the stage of Copper Hills.

Myra Marlowe is a famous television actress who leaves the commotion of Hollywood for a quiet New England town where she hopes to take a break from acting to write her autobiography. However, the little town of Beaver Haven is more disrupting than all of California combined. To drive out the overbearing neighbors, Myra invents a fake psychopathic sister who lives with her. She scares the neighbors away for a time, but instead of keeping them out for good, she begins to get swallowed up by her story.

Full of comedy, A Bad Year for Tomatoes is a very entertaining play. The show is full of raucous humor and double entendres. The supporting characters are Piney, a large man with a thick beard and an axe, who is the epitome of “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” played by Ethan Singleton; Willa Mae Wilcox, the neighborhood voodoo witch played by Sage Kenison; and Cora and Reba, two women who often quickly spout off town gossip much to the dismay of Myra, portrayed by Shae Muncey and Ayrista Burton respectively.

The play is not commonly known and is not widely performed. Why was it chosen by Copper Hills High School then? “Mr Blackham’s wife actually did it when she was in college. I think since he already knew the show, it was a little bit easier for him to pick, and I think the thought process was, ‘it’s something new, something people haven’t really heard of so it might generate a bigger buzz,’” said Abigail Shelley.

All plays have issues during production, and A Bad Year for Tomatoes was no exception. Assembling the cast for practices was a major problem. “We had a lot of scheduling issues, so that meant we had weeks where we’d be missing characters and it’d be half the cast trying to fill in for the other cast and that made things a bit slower,” said Singleton. While the small cast did provide some difficulties during preparation, Shelley said she enjoyed it more than a large cast. “The small cast…really gives you the chance to become better friends with everybody…When you have a small cast, you’re just one big group and you’re all friends and there is little to no separation.”

Issues not only arose during rehearsals, but also onstage. During opening night, the middle divider of the dutch door broke as well as the plexiglass window. “It made closing the door hard, so the door was mostly ajar for the entire production when it was supposed to be closed,” shared Shelley.

Character development was quite a taxing process and rather time consuming. Shelley said that the cast spent about a week of rehearsals working on character development. “[There] was this whole three hour rehearsal where I made this really complicated web diagram on the whiteboard of how you feel about this character and quotes that can support it.”

The outrageous, slapstick nature of the play provided some of the actors a unique opportunity to learn how to play a character who could not be a real person. “Not all characters need to be people. Sometimes it’s better for characters to be just that…. Not every character needs to have a fleshed-out past, present, and future. Sometimes they need to stay comedic relief,” taught Singleton.

Shelley also had a new experience with performing her role. She had performed supporting roles before, but this was her debut as the main character in a stage production. “It definitely put a lot more stress on me because the thing being pounded into my head was, ‘we can’t do the show without you. You have to be here or it’s not going to work,’” she said.

The cast of A Bad Year for Tomatoes overcame a series of set and cast issues to give this story and the audience the performance they deserved. Overall, the play was a huge success.