Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney — and countless generations of kids in basements, attics and garages before and after them — have had the same creative, what-have-we-got-to-lose idea: “Hey, let’s put on a show!”
Jim Luongo is no kid. But 10 years ago the veteran English and theater teacher had the same idea.
He was a longtime member of Westport’s Unitarian Church. So he contacted fellow congregants, found a cast and crew, and produced Doubt right there on Lyons Plains Road.
It was a hit. The next year, Luongo put on another show.
Jim Luongo, at the Westport Unitarian Church.
He’s been doing it ever since. Among his credits: Proof, The Curious Savage, Rabbit Hole, Dancing at Lughnasa, The (Female) Odd Couple, and American Daughter.
There’s no budget. Sets and costumes come from actors and techies’ homes and closets.
But the UU Players’ plays are now the church’s second biggest annual fundraiser. (The August tag sale is first.)
“We’re better than we have any right to be,” says actor Sarah Bell. The 14-year Coleytown Middle School educator and self-described “wannabe actor” calls Luongo “a great director.”
But, she adds, “no one else is in charge. We figure things out ourselves, together.”
The still-ad hoc troupe does not, she admits, advertise well. They’re happy just to have fun, performing in front of friends, family and church members.
Now, however, they want everyone to know about this weekend’s show.
Bakersfield Mist is based on a true story. Bell plays a bartender living in a trailer park who buys the ugliest picture she can find, for a friend’s birthday. It’s relegated to a tag sale, where an art teacher identifies it as a possible Pollack.
A snooty art authenticator comes to the trailer to inspect it. The play is stinging, funny and challenging.
Sarah Bell and Tom Croarkin examine a “Jackson Pollack” painting in “Bakersfield Mist.”
One reason the UU Players want broader audiences to know about Bakersfield is because it’s Luongo’s last play.
After a decade, the director is stepping down.
“He’s given us so much,” Bell says. “It’s time people heard about him.”
And about the UU Players, who really do put on a show.
(“Bakersfield Mist” will be performed at the Westport Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, on Friday and Saturday, November 2 and 3, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, November 4, at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. The suggested donation is $20.)