September 16, 2014

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Theatre and Dance Presents The Spitfire Grill Sept. 18-24

Valdosta State University’s Theatre and Dance Area will celebrate the opening of its 2014-2015 season with “The Spitfire Grill.” Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, through Saturday, Sept. 20; 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21; and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, through Wednesday, Sept. 24.

 (Photo by Paul Leavy / Valdosta State University)

~ 2014-2015 is the Year of the Arts at Valdosta State University ~

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University’s Theatre and Dance Area will celebrate the opening of its 2014-2015 season with “The Spitfire Grill.” Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, through Saturday, Sept. 20; 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21; and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, through Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Set during the winter of 1994 through the fall of 1995, “The Spitfire Grill” tells the story of Percy Talbott, a young woman fresh off a five-year prison term who decides to start her life over again in the rural Wisconsin town of Gilead. A contemporary American musical, it is based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff; features music and book by James Valcq and lyrics and book by Fred Alley; and boasts an unforgettable score of country and folk music.

“The Spitfire Grill” opens with Percy Talbott (played by Kelsey South and Kara Harrison) gazing out of the window of her prison cell. “She’s about to be released,” according to a synopsis at “In her pocket is a photograph clipped from a travel book. The caption reads, ‘Autumn colors along Copper Creek near Gilead, Wis.’ Arriving in Gilead, Percy reports to the local sheriff, Joe Sutter (played by Will Stanley). He leads her through the deserted streets to a ramshackle diner called the Spitfire Grill, run by a crusty old widow, Hannah Ferguson (played by Jazze Lewis), who has a bad hip and sharp tongue. Joe persuades Hannah to take Percy on as a boarder and give her work as a waitress.

“Percy sets to work in a swirl of small town suspicions led by Effy Katshaw (played by Chela North), the postmistress who’s also [the] village busybody. In the face of all the gossip and Hannah’s constant haranguing, Percy begins to wonder whether she made a mistake in coming to Gilead. Her thoughts are interrupted by a cry from Hannah, who has tripped … (and broken her hip). Against the better wishes of her fiercely protective nephew Caleb Thorpe (played by Blake Fountain), Hannah has Percy take over the Spitfire.”

The seven-person cast also includes Caleb Thorpe’s wife, Shelby Thorpe (played by Caitlin Miller), and the Visitor (played by Michael Morgan).

Critics have described “The Spitfire Grill” as being full of heart and soul, simple and emotional, plain-spoken and honest.

“I am thrilled to be directing this production of ‘The Spitfire Grill’ for the Valdosta State University community …,” shared Michael Hadary, director and a temporary instructor of theatre, specifically musical theatre voice, in the VSU Department of Communication Arts. “Ten years ago this month, I was afforded the opportunity to perform in a production of the show, and I had a fantastic experience.

“Getting reacquainted with Percy, Hannah, Shelby, Joe, Effy, Caleb, and the Visitor has been an absolute joy.”

“The Spitfire Grill” opened with previews in New York City at the Duke Theatre on 42nd Street on Sept. 7, 2001, four days prior to the terrorist attacks that devastated the nation. The original Off-Broadway production finished its scheduled run, closing on Oct. 14, 2001. It earned an American Academy of Arts and Letters Richard Rogers Production Award.

Individual tickets for “The Spitfire Grill” are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens, $10 for children and non-VSU students, and free for all VSU students with a valid university identification card. Tickets for groups of 10 or more people at a single performance are $9 per person.

Season memberships, which include eight admissions to be used as desired by the member throughout the 2014-2015 VSU Theatre and Dance season, are $72 for the general public and $64 for university faculty and staff; they will be available through Thursday, Nov. 13. Patronages are welcome at a variety of levels, from a low of $150 to a high of $1,000 or more, and benefit student scholarships.

Performed in the Lab Theatre on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building, which is located at the intersection of Brookwood Drive and Oak Street, VSU’s production of “The Spitfire Grill” contains adult language and themes and will be presented with one 15-minute intermission.  

Tickets may be reserved by calling the VSU Theatre and Dance Box Office at (229) 333-5973 between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Cash and check payments only will be accepted this season; there will be no online sales or credit card transactions until further notice.

Contact Michael Hadary at to learn more.

On the Web:

Cast, Crew, Orchestra

• Production Crew — Michael Hadary (director and music director), Kalyn Thomas (stage manager), Ree Seminole (technical director and sound designer), Caroline Hatchett (vocal director), Esther Iverson (costume designer), Casey Watkins (costume designer), Ruth A. Brandvik (scenic and lighting designer and properties master), Mike Burson (assistant stage manager), Travis Hunnewell (master electrician and scene shop assistant), John Sanders (sound technician), Kalyn Thomas (light board operator and scene shop assistant), Mikaela Smith (wardrobe crew), Allison Stephenson (scene shop assistant), Joshua Tetlow (scene shop assistant), Elena Harper (costume shop assistant), Christie Jo Mayo (costume shop assistant), Blake Fountain (box office manager), Olivia White (house manager), students in THEA 2750, THEA 3720A, THEA 3720B (scenic construction crew), and students in THEA 3720C (costume construction crew).

• Cast — Kelsey South (Percy Talbott on Sept. 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24), Kara Harrison (Percy Talbott on Sept. 22), Will Stanley (Joe Sutter), Jazze Lewis (Hannah Furguson), Blake Fountain (Caleb Thorpe), Chela North (Effy Katshaw), Caitlin Miller (Shelby Thorpe), and Michael Morgan (the Visitor).  

• Orchestra — Kay Vincent (piano), Danielle McNeil (violin), and John Pope (guitar).

Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities. 

VSU Theatre and Dance's production of "The Spitfire Grill" meets the following goals: 

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Goal 5: Develop and enhance Valdosta State’s human and physical resources.

Visit to learn more.