My Kind of Town ~ Al McNeely

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“My love/love relationship with Town Theatre goes way back to the dark ages: 1964. That’s when my wife Pat and an old high school girlfriend joined forces to force me to a tryout. I hadn’t been on the stage for seven years, but shockingly got the part, the lead and later the laughs. I was totally hooked. Now, 54 years later, my total is 28 productions. They cover everything from heavy drama to second tenor in a Sha Na Na line (twice!). From warbling an Irish lullaby solo in Guys and Dolls to a not-too-bad W.C. Fields impersonation. From opening one play by falling over dead, and two others that co-starred a 6-foot invisible rabbit.

It has been a wondrous ride. Six decades of laughter and hard work.

Learning all those lines. I even wrote scenes for two plays. Offstage, there were two terms on the Board of Governors, one term as president of the Players Club, and countless hours spent in such committees as play reading. I loved it all. Rehearsals were a kick. With each new production I made new friends, and as the years rolled by, they became old friends. Other McNeelys wound up on stage and we sometimes did shows together.

It all culminated in seeing my daughter Allison morph from a kid who once crawled around under the conference table upstairs to become the theatre’s Resident Director. As such, she has directed me in three shows so far, neatly turning our relationship upside down and proving that she has forgotten more stagecraft than I ever knew.

Today, at the precarious age of 83, it’s the people I remember more than the shows, people like my good friend John Wrisley. John and I played Holmes and Watson twice and did essentially the same two characters for My Fair Lady. At one time or another, my talented niece Leah, my comedy-improv son Alan, and of course my awesome daughter Allison were in shows. Many of our rehearsals were more like parties and some of the cast parties were held at our house. Occasionally, even today, someone in a restaurant or grocery store will call out “How’s Harvey?” and I have been “made” as Elwood P. Dowd, the angelic friend of Harvey the Rabbit. I played Elwood twice, 15 years apart, and a portrait of Harvey and myself, paw on shoulder, hangs on our bedroom wall. I can still use lines from that play anywhere I need to kill some time. Only the remnants of other lines from other plays are still in my feeble memory bank today, remarkable when you consider the sweat and tears once necessary to pound them in.

There were other plays that came under the “Heavy Lifting” category. Doing Sleuth with Bill Arvay as a two-actor grind wore us down to the nub every night. I thought about walking away from my TT hobby/habit. But new plays came along with roles I liked, so I was still moderately hooked. In 1999 Allison tricked me into doing a very long role in Over My Dead Body. It proved to be my swan song for retentive memory. I did two more walk-ons and am sneakingly searching for another. Three years ago, at age 80, I played the one-scene one-laugh cop in Singin’ in the Rain. By all the evidence I can conscientiously collect, that makes me the oldest actor ever to appear in a TT show. I’m proud of that.

I was lucky enough to do shows in both the 50th and the 75th anniversary seasons. So if anybody desperately needs a walk-on for the 100th, I’m your man.

Or the rabbit.”

ABOUT THE ARTIST ~ Kathy Hartzog

ABOUT THE ARTIST ~ Kathy Hartzog

Kathy photoKathy Hartzog is a well-known Columbia actress having appeared in numerous musicals and comedies at Workshop Theatre, Town Theatre and Village Square Theatre in Lexington.  She appeared as Mame at Village Square, as well as Rosie in Bring Back Birdie and a soloist in All Night Strut.  At Workshop she played Noleta in Sordid Lives and Mrs. Meers (for which she was awarded Best Supporting Actress by On Stage Columbia) in Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Some of her memorable roles at Town Theater have included Bloody Mary in South Pacific, Aunt Eller in Oklahoma, Ouiser in Steel Magnolias, Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street, Daisy Werthen in Driving Miss Daisy, The Duchess in “Nice Work if You Can Get It”, Sue Ellen Smith Barney Fife in Honkey Tonk Angels, as the Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol and most recently as Mrs. Kirby in You Can’t Take it With You, plus countless others.  Her favorite role, however, has been Louise in Always…Patsy Cline, which not only has been presented at Town Theatre several times but has toured all over the state including Newberry Opera House, Bishopville Opera House, Dillon’s Performing Arts Center and Greenwood Theatre. A transplant from Montgomery, Alabama, Kathy appeared in over 30 productions with the Montgomery Little Theatre.

Kathy started painting in watercolors and oils 20 years ago under the guidance of renowned South Carolina artists, Michele McNinch and Anna Kaye Singley.  She has been juried in the South Carolina State Fair art exhibit for several years and has won several Purchase Patron Awards.  Some of her pieces are in private collections across the South. She is a member of the Corley Mills Artists’ Group and her work can be viewed on their website,

IMG_8144Title:   “Making an Entrance”
Inspiration for the work:  An actress getting ready to step onto the stage during Town’s production of South Pacific.
Medium:  Oil on canvas                    Size:  11” x 14”

This piece was already purchased, but see Kathy’s other submission and check out all of the other art pieces here!