There will be quite a pile of stuff on the stage when All For One Productions opens “The Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church” tonight.
Artistic director Lauren Nichols calls the pile of cast-offs a sixth character in the play. It is full of odd props and hand-me-downs All For One has gathered over the years.
When asked what's in the pile, she laughs and replies, “What isn't?”
“My prop room is looking enormously tidy because half of it is in that pile,” she says. That includes every piece of clothing the costume room could spare.
It helps that the prop room is right next to the rehearsal room in All For One's new headquarters in the former Zion Lutheran Academy building at 2310 Weisser Park Ave. ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St., is still its “home stage” for productions.
“Charitable Sisterhood” is a thought-provoking play posing questions about charity, the church and the church's role, Nichols says. But she points out it is also hilariously funny – something the world could use more of right now.
“We need to laugh, oh my goodness do we need to laugh,” she says.
Along with the humor, the Bo Wilson play has layers of mystery. Not everyone is what they seem as five church women come together in 1977 to collect donations after a natural disaster and find themselves stuck together during a storm with a mountain of odds-and-ends given by the congregation.
The cast includes Christa Wilfong as Bea, the self-important pastor's wife. Whitnie Twigg, Anna Macke, Stacey Kuster and Megan Gerig also star.
The sisterhood exists to serve, but the characters are facing seemingly endless needs. This is the congregation's fourth charity drive of the year, and it is only May.
It's a timely story, Nichols says in an interview just a few days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana. There are always disasters and relief efforts underway, and the play gives the audience a chance to think about what it means to really be charitable.
“I hope they walk away with a new appreciation for the very selfless nature of volunteerism and the countless people all over the place who are showing up – showing up in any kind of weather to do all kinds of things to help those in need that they don't even know,” Nichols says.
In that spirit, the audience has a chance to give. Theatergoers are encouraged to bring women's hygiene products to the performance to be donated to St. Joseph's Mission Women's Shelter, which serves single women without children.
If you go
What: “The Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church”
When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Sept. 24 and 25; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 26
Where: ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.
Admission: $20 adults, $17 seniors, $11 students; ArtsTix Community Box Office in Arts United Center, 424-5220 or tickets.artstix.org