Published: December 03. 2012 2:55PM
Written by Stephanie Morgan
Photographed by Cindy Hosea
There’s nothing like a little humor to relieve the holiday stress and at Cafe And Then Some, Norma Jean, Dot McJunkin and Bubba have been handing out the laughs for a long time. The much-loved characters are nothing if not torn out straight out of a typical Southern story, and we dare you to spend any time at one of their performances without a good belly laugh at your own expense.
Somehow our Southerness takes on a whole new meaning at the hands of these characters, and things we take for granted such as the necessity of big hair and expressions like “uppity” or “sugah” are brought up in a way that is only funny when it’s a family inside joke. The good news here is that we are all invited to be a part of this quirky, hilarious, outrageous family with an outright invitation to laugh out loud at the things that we have in common.
So how did this local dinner theater get started? The people who love what they do and love where they live shared their perspective on it all, and you might be surprised to hear what they’re really thinking underneath all that big hair.
Susan Smith makes an appearance as Norma Jean in almost every production at the Cafe. She’s been around the theater scene in Greenville as long as she can remember, growing up attending plays at Greenville Little Theatre and later perfecting the craft by drawing emotions from patrons while on a stage most of her adult life.
In 1984, long before downtown Greenville experienced the renaissance making it what it is today, Susan and her husband, Bill, opened the Cafe And Then Some. With other supporters and friends, they had been performing at The Red Baron restaurant just a block away, and decided that comedy deserved to have a place all of its own in Greenville.
“We have had the most fun recreating characters from Greenville,” Smith says. “We love that our take on current events is funny to other people.”
Maureen Abdalla (aka Dot McJunkin) agrees that the long-term popularity of the shows has been a pleasant surprise.
“We never, in a million years, dreamed that our show would be enjoyable decades later,” Abdalla says.
The two give much credit to writer Ron Whisenant, who creates the scripts based on local topics of interest. He writes several plays each year, and the cast brings them to life, adding their own personal touches such as the familiar big hair and Southern drawls, overalls and pearls.
Another surprise is that one need not be a local to love the shows. Visitors to Greenville get a kick out of the casts’ knack for Southern storytelling complete with renditions of popular songs both current and from the past.
“Our show has become a required part of the visit to Greenville for many families and business executives who are in town a couple of times a year,” Smith says. “Our cast has a great time working together and it shows on the stage.”
Adds Abdalla, “Ron writes stories and then I add my two cents. Susan is happy because people keep laughing, even the ones who don’t know us. The characters Ron has created keep ’em coming back and we’re so thankful for it.”
It’s not all fun and games at the Cafe And Then Some, however. The group also takes particular interest in the local YWCA, often hosting fundraisers for and donating to the YWCA mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. The Cafe And Then Some team gives back to the community by supporting the women and children receiving education and countless other types of support.
“Merry Christmas, Y’all” is live and onstage this month through the New Year. It’s sure to join the long list of hits that have come from the creative crew at Cafe And Then Some.
We’ll see y’all there!