Community theater brings back female comedy “Dixie Swim Club”

“Dixie Swim Club” opens at the Wichita Community Theatre July 17.
“Dixie Swim Club” opens at the Wichita Community Theatre July 17. Courtesy photo

Six years after staging the all-female comedy “Dixie Swim Club,” Wichita Community Theatre is diving back in with a new incarnation.

“The audiences really, really liked it, and several members have said, ‘When are you bringing it back?’,” said WCT veteran Mary Lou Phipps-Winfrey, who plays acerbic Vernadette in this version and directed the 2013 production. “We wanted to wait five or six years – normally we wait about eight before we bring a show back.

“Women love women’s stories, so we brought it back for a summer chick-flick – only it’s a play,” she added.

“Dixie Swim Club” follows a quintet of women, swim team members in their college days, as they reunite several times over a 30-year period at a beach cottage on North Carolina’s outer banks.

“It takes them from their 40s to their 70s,” Leroy Clark, director of the current production, said. “It’s funny and has a lot of punchlines and things that happen that are funny, but there’s also some touching moments as the characters age and so on.”

Clark said “Dixie” would be staged in the round at WCT.

“Dixie” is among the first of 20-plus comedic plays written by the trio of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, whose works have become favorites of community theaters across the country. Wichita Community Theatre has staged five of their plays in the past 11 years, and will bring back “Christmas Belles,” this holiday season after a 10-year break.

Much of the humor in the comedy, Phipps-Winfey said, comes out of the characters’ relationships rather than punchlines or pratfalls.

“‘Dixie Swim Club’ has a nice foundation to it,” Phipps-Winfrey said. “The characters are people you actually could believe have existed. They don’t do anything strange, but they all do quirky things. We all do that.”

“It’s the most relatable, emotion-wise, to people and especially women,” Crystal Meek said of “Dixie Swim Club.” “You’ve got a bunch of women talking and they start laughing together. They stick with each other through the years.”

Meek is the only returning actress from the previous version of “Dixie.” Last time she played Sheree, the plucky team captain and fitness buff. Now, she plays wisecracking overachiever Dinah, an attorney.

“I wanted to experience a different character,” Meek said. “They’re all fun.”

Both WCT veterans, Meek and Phipps-Winfrey estimate their collaborations go back about 30 years.

Phipps-Winfrey said that rapport is evident in “Dixie Swim Club.”

“When we look at one another or talk to one another, we have a relationship established even though we’re playing different characters,” she said.

Joining the veterans in the cast are Cheryl Pierce, Amy Haist and Chelsea Lee.

“It’s always nice to get new people in the show,” Meek said. “(The characters) know each other’s secrets and we all have blackmail on each other.”

‘Dixie Swim Club’

When: July 17-28, at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays

Where: Wichita Community Theatre, 258 N. Fountain

Tickets: $11 opening night. Regular admission: $15 for adults, $13 for military, seniors and students. Tickets available by calling 316-686-1282