‘Agnes of God’ resurrected after Hurricane Florence shortened run

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Big Dawg Productions brings back the intense, twisty drama to Wilmington’s Cape Fear Playhouse on Feb. 20.

Before Hurricane Florence was even forecast to hit Wilmington, “Agnes of God” was on a streak of poor luck.

“We would joke the entire time that this show was cursed,” said Katherine Vernon, who’s directing John Pielmeier’s play for Big Dawg Productions. “The whole reason I ended up directing in the first place was that the first director’s husband broke both his feet and had to drop the show. Then I promptly broke my ankle the night after auditions. When I directed this the first time, I had surgery, was on a walker and in some pretty horrific pain.”

It didn’t stop there.

“We also had a cast member who got sick, so we lost some time,” Vernon said. 

Then came the hurricane, and the play, originally meant to run from Sept. 6-23, was reduced to four performances.

The streak ends now as “Agnes of God” returns to the Cape Fear Playhouse on Feb. 20 to make up the eight performances it missed last year. The psychological drama is back with the same three-woman cast (Jemila Ericson, Grace Carlyle Berry and Eleanor Zeddies) and crew save for the stage manager.

I talked to Vernon about what it’s like to revisit “Agnes” in an interview below, which has been edited for length and clarity. And, if you see anyone involved with this production, please note the phrase “break a leg” has been banned. Just this once, “Good luck” will do.

How did the decision to bring the show back happen?

That was Steve (Vernon, Big Dawg’s artistic director)’s idea. At the time we had to cancel, Steve said he was going to look for a way to get us back up. So, there was hope but you never know with things like that. Everything’s in flux and things just had to line up quite right. We’re thrilled we get to finish it.

Have you ever been a part of a production that’s been able to reunite everyone and come back?

Definitely not under these circumstances. I’ve done one show a million years ago that went well and we did a short mini-run a couple of months later but nothing like this, where something had to get canceled because of an act of God … I’m sorry, that’s a bad joke considering the title of the show. A lot of shows got hit by that storm. I wish that they’d been able to make up their runs as well. I’m thrilled it is happening with our show. We worked really hard on it. My actors are doing such beautiful work and I’m glad that more people are going to get to see it.

Was it difficult for you to get back into the same mental space to step back into ‘Agnes’?

No. In a weird way, it’s actually better. My cast, who are champs, had a director who would finish rehearsal completely exhausted because I had a broken ankle. Now it feels like we’ve been given this gift, a little bit of extra time to jump back in where we left off. We’ve gone back for a read-through, which was great fun to listen to them speak the lines again. You could tell from the reading that the performances were still there. There’s something really freeing about having already opened the show and then being able to come back to it. The nerves and the jitters are gone. We’re able to just focus and there’s an ease to it. It was easy to jump back into it. I think we all felt very close to the show by the time we opened the first time. It’s kind of like settling back in with that friend from college that you liked so much and had fascinating conversations with. Even though you haven’t seen him in a while, you fall right back into that groove.

With your injuries and all these setbacks before Florence even came, considering the themes of the show, was there ever any talk, like, “Wait, Does God not want us to put the show on?”

We did. We all did joke about it like, “What on Earth? What. What being have we, have we angered?” That is mostly joking because this show is an exploration of faith more than an exploration of religion.

Are there things that you are looking forward to being able to do this time around that you maybe didn’t get to before?

I think what we’re able to do this time is use the set a lot more. Donna Troy is our set designer and set painter and she, I can’t even I don’t have words for how gorgeous and perfect her set was and is. It’s mostly a bare stage but her design is glorious and perfect for the show.

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