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Wake Forest-Rolesville grad living actor’s dream in Big Apple
by David Leone
NEW YORK, N.Y. — What do three women with ukuleles and a broad sense of humor have to do with Wake Forest? A lot, actually.
Caitlin Davis, a 2006 Wake Forest-Rolesville and 2011 UNC-Greensboro graduate with a mind for theater, is bringing her comedy show home from the Big Apple for one night only.
Titled Missionary in Manhattan: The Dirty South Tour, the slightly off-color adult musical pokes fun at “big hair, blind faith and plural marriage,” at Cirque de Vol Studios in Raleigh, Friday, June 7 at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15 are available for purchase at the door or at greatuke.com. Children under age 13 are not recommended.
The show is presented by a comic sketch artists’ group Davis and two UNC-G friends founded called The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Brooklyn.
“It started by accident doing these comedy performances around town. We’d impersonate Mormon sister wives and pop culture with ukuleles,” Davis said during a phone interview from New York.
“In college we always had theme parties and would take on these personas. We were big dorky art majors. This (musical) is an alteration of that. People have enjoyed it so much. It’s just a joyous celebration of silliness.”
After their first effort, they were invited out again, and again and again to put it on at other venues.
Then, another WF-R grad got involved. Lori Mannette, who was festival coordinator for the 2012 Dream Up Festival at the Theater for the New City in New York, told Davis and friends, “You should really think about sitting down and writing this up as a play,” Davis recalled. “We did, it was accepted into the festival and was reviewed by the New York Post. We got lots of feedback.”
“It’s a hilarious musical that lampoons the institution of marriage through the eyes of three sister wives on the hunt for their brother husband … who may or may not have left them for his [male] vocal coach,” said Davis.
“As we travel from town to town producing the show, we taper it to fit the city we’re performing in. So, in this version, the characters have been residing in an abandoned Blockbuster in Durham — experiencing the finer things the Triangle has to offer — as they search for the fourth member of their band and the father of their seven kids.”
That also means referencing Raleigh’s only gay bar, Legends, which sits next to the performance site. The venue brings another connection home as well. Cirque de Vol Studios is co-owned by WF-R grad and Davis’ friend, Sheryl Howell.
The 45-minute show has since had two runs in Philadelphia, where one of their company members now resides, and will be shown for one night only in Greensboro, Raleigh and Atlanta, Ga.
“We decided we wanted to bring it home to family and friends in the South,” said Davis.
Another local tie-in comes with Davis in the form of her stage manager, Chris Raddatz. Raddatz is a Wakefield High graduate whose parents live in Wake Forest. He also lives in New York City.
Comedy aside, the performance hints at deeper themes of community pride, coming to terms with one’s own identity and acceptance, said Davis.
“It’s also about intolerance against homosexuals in the South,” she said. “We’re raising awareness through song.”
Davis has lived in New York for two years, pursuing an acting career. She previously appeared in an off-Broadway play called Stop the Virgins and a Burning Coal Theatre performance called Mary’s
Wedding, which she returned home to be in. In Missionary in Manhattan, she plays Sister Gretchen, a part loosely based on her own personality. The other parts are played by Kaleigh Malloy, Elizabeth May and Dave May.
To perform the part, Davis had to learn the ukulele — her only instrument — and also learned how to write and direct a play, something she never planned on doing.
“I didn’t expect it, I didn’t expect to be a playwright,” Davis added. “It’s definitely grown and snowballed into something we never expected it to be.”