By Maureen Smith
HERNANDO – What happens when a tour bus gets stranded in a snowtorm near a convent of women who all took the name ‘Mary’ while police frantically search for a serial killer who targets women named Mary? Parishioners from Hernando Holy Spirit Parish watched this hilarious setup play out in a dinner theater presentation of “Murder is Habit Forming,” on Saturday, May 7.
For years the parish hosted a Fall Follies variety show, but last this year, parishioners opted for a play instead. Parishioner Ken Hoover and his wife Dana spearheaded the project.
“My wife and I both have a form of cerebral palsy,” said Ken Hoover. “We have always felt excluded from theater and drama – we are not represented. Most of the time when you see a ‘disabled’ actor it’s an able-bodied person acting disabled,” he said. Hoover and his wife love theater and have even taken acting classes in Memphis. They decided that staging a play together would be a great way to get people together and do something they love.
“We had some trouble filling the cast,” he explained. “I think it was the Lord and the Holy Spirit at work. My wife prayed that the Lord would send us actors. She is a substitute teacher in DeSoto County schools. She just so happened to mention it to a young lady in the library of a school where she was filling in. That lady is member of a local theater group!” The volunteer is not Catholic, but was delighted to get involved and bring along some friends to fill out the cast.
While Hoover and his wife brought their creative energy, other volunteers helped with logistics, public relations and dinner. Barbara Smith, who works for FedEx in Memphis, describes herself as having a “type-A” personality. She took on the task of helping set a rehearsal schedule, making a poster, tickets and getting the word out about the show. “The play had 17 cast members! Trying to coordinate practice with people who are working full-time or going to school or who are parents – it was a real challenge,” she said.
Smith and her husband even had to tackle a modified stage setup that allowed Hoover, who uses crutches to walk, to get on and off stage.
In all, 150 people came to the whodunnit. The ladies club made a spaghetti dinner. All the proceeds went to the debt reduction fund for the parish.
“The audience was laughing hysterically for most of the show!” said Smith. She called all the work a ministry and said she will do it again next year. Hoover said he encourages everyone to step outside their comfort zone sometimes. “Go ahead and try something. Even if what you do ends up not being perfect or not being what you expected, you will learn something!”
By Maureen Smith