The play’s the thing for grandmother, mother, son

You can plan these things, but sometimes it’s better when they just happen.

When auditions for the two one-act comedies opening this week at the Lyric Theatre were held, Emily Crawford and her son, Tim, decided to give it a try.

A few days later, Emily was cast as Sophia in “A Toby Show,” and Tim won roles in both performances, as Toby himself in that show and as the thief in “Shut and Bar the Door.”

Meanwhile, their mother and grandmother — Suzi Harkey, a veteran of several previous Lyric shows — wasn’t available to attend auditions, but she let director Larry Mathis know she was interested. She captured the role of Mrs. Vanundersquire in “A Toby Show.”

But she didn’t know other members of her family had tried out for roles until the lists of cast members were announced.

Both will be presented in succession at each showing, and the six-performance run will open this weekend. Shows are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday this week, and again at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 21. That schedule will be repeated over the weekend of May 26-28 at the Lyric Theatre. Tickets are available online at costing $12 for adults and $8 for students. For information, call the theater at (325) 600-4303.

Emily, whose day job is serving as city manager for the City of Brownwood, said she was urged to participate by Mathis, who is a member of the Brownwood City Council.

“He was very encouraging, but it took some convincing,” Crawford said. She said she also enjoys the support of her husband, Scotty.

It wasn’t as if she was a stranger to the stage, though, because she isn’t. She had been involved in one-act plays and theater during her high school years at San Saba High School.

That interest may have been inherited, because her mother had been involved in theater in San Antonio before she and husband, Randy, moved to Brownwood.

Here, the Harkeys have assumed key roles in the Lyric family, with Suzi turning in performances as memorable characters in shows like “South Pacific,” “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Christmas Belles.” Randy has put his creativity into crafting elaborate sets for several Lyric shows, as well as for sets in Brownwood High performances.

“We’re having so much fun with this,” Suzi Harkey said after a rehearsal of the two shows last week.

She said the Lyric has allowed her to return to the theater after being away from it while she was working.

“My job kept me away when we were in San Antonio,” she explained.

Perhaps theater is in their family’s genetics.

Tim, a sophomore at Brownwood High School, carries the leading role in “A Toby Show” in addition to having a part in “Shut and Bar the Door.” At school, he has been in the cast of several one-act plays, winning honorable mention all-star cast honors as well as one all-star cast recognition — so far.

“Shannon Lee is very lucky,” Mathis said, noting that Tim will be in classes for the BHS theater director over the next two years.

“Shut and Bar the Door” by Tom Gray, set in 13th century England, features a husband and wife to enter a pact to remain silent after an argument over which one of them should “shut and bar the door” of their cottage. Their resolve is tested when the home is invaded by a princess in search of her prince as well as by robbers. The comedy builds to a furious chase.

“A Toby Show” brings back to the stage an American folk character named Toby, a country bumpkin who through naiveté, honesty and homespun humor outwits city slickers. Within the melodrama, Toby uses a performance of “Cinderella” to outsmart his antagonists. Set in 1915, the play was written by Aurand Harris, perhaps best known for adapting “Androcles and the Lion” as a children’s musical in 1964.

“These shows are hilarious,” Mathis said. “There are lots of laughs.”

The plays are part of the Patron packages offered by the Lyric Theatre. While the Patron package includes the price of admission, patrons must still reserve their seats prior to each show to ensure best seats.