By PAM HARBAUGH
Get ready, Brevard…a new community theater is about to stir to life next spring in a sleepy spot along A1A, near one of those blinking yellow lights and not too far from Rob’s Bait & Tackle.
It’s the South Beach Players and it’s the brainchild of Melbourne Beach residents Jeannine Mjoseth and Donna Roberts.
Auditions for their first show will be held Thursday, January 4, 2018. The show, two short plays, is scheduled to run March 14 and 21 at the Sebastian Beach Inn.
“We’re starting small but eventually we hope the South Beach Players will be to Melbourne beach what the Cocoa Village Playhouse is to Cocoa,” Mjoseth said.
Although their enthusiasm bubbles over when you talk with them about their project, there’s no doubt they area approaching this with some smarts, thanks in part to their unusual friendship:At 6 foot 2 inches, Mjoseth is a former professional lady wrestler who went by the name of Mad Maxine. Roberts, reaching to the heights of just over 5 feet, is a former grade school teacher and children’s theater director.
The two women have been working on this project since April when serendipity brought them together. They were at the beach in their small town of Floridana, a quiet, unincorporated community on the barrier island where that blinking yellow light warns drivers along two-lane A1A to slow down.
Mjoseth, 58, an outgoing woman with ready humor, saw Roberts, 64, wearing a hat with the logo of a theater company called “Key Players.”
She knew that among a town of 7,000 citizens quickly approaching AARP status, she had found a kindred spirit. So Mjoseth approached Roberts and ideas flowed.
They learned each other had moved with their husbands to the area about the same time last year. They realized immediately that they were both extroverts and friendly. And, most importantly perhaps, they love the theater and would love to participate.
However, the long drives to established community theaters is so daunting that they don’t get to them that much. They’ve both gone to Cocoa Village Playhouse and Melbourne Civic Theatre. They both want to get involved with productions.
“I had just that morning looking at websites for community theaters and thought I’d like to be involved,” Mjoseth said. “To drive an hour or more, back and forth, just too onerous. This way we could start our own and not have to do the drive.”
So before you could say “five minutes,” the South Beach Players was born.
“We feel like there really is a need for this,” Roberts said. “It will bring the communities together of the Melbourne Shores and Sunnyland, all up and down A1A.”
In order to gauge how residents would receive this, they scheduled a meeting at a local civic organization’s clubhouse.
“But the hurricane came and scuttled the meeting,” Roberts said. “Then we set a date after the hurricane, put out notices and started word of mouth that we would have an introductory meeting to get the feel of the community. We had a dozen people.”
They wanted to start off small, so the women decided to find a couple of short plays, no longer than 30 minutes each.
Mjoseth came up with “Lives of Great Waitresses,” in which playwright Nina Shengold takes a glimpse into the lives of those waiting tables.
“I thought the dialogue was funny and compelling,” Mjoseth said.
Roberts came up with “Three Tables.” That play, written by Dan Remmes, concerns three separate couples in a restaurant. One couple is celebrating an anniversary, another is planning a divorce and a third are on their first internet date.
“I had personally be in ‘Three Tables’ in the Key Players,” Roberts said. “I know it is successful.”
Without planning it, the plays both have similar set pieces and props. And, just as coincidentally, their first production is scheduled to run on a dining room stage at Sebastian Beach Inn. So they don’t expect to have to put too much effort into getting tables, chairs, plates and other necessities for restaurant scenes.
“That’s just pure luck,” Mjoseth said.
The next step they took was to hold a 50/50 raffle fundraiser at a community party.
“We got a not insignificant contribution ($140) toward scripts and royalties,” Roberts said. “The rest is coming out of our pockets. We have faith that this will come to fruition.”
They’re also weighing the option of having a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is an on-line fundraising website.
Both women plan to drawn on their backgrounds.
Mjoseth, who was born in Germany to a U.S. military family, learned a lot from Mad Maxine, which was part of the old World Wrestling Federation. Her last appearance in the ring was in 1986. Her first televised match was in Poughkeepsie, NY.
“It’s the extreme of theater, where everything is so broad,” she said. “And reading an audience, that is essential part of wrestling. You are building up an audience where they all have this group experience, like a crescendo. It’s pretty powerful.”
A million miles away, in the Florida Keys, Roberts was teaching the gifted program at a K-8 school where she also directed children’s theater.
“I did not direct any adult shows,” she said. “But I have been on stage, a stage manager (for Key Players in the Upper Keys) and done every aspect you could think of in theater. It was a big part of my life for 25 years. So I really missed it. That’s another reason I just jumped on the bandwagon with Jeanine.”
They’d like to get help from local playwrights and directors. They’re also hoping that volunteers and staff at established community theaters will give them advice.
“We want to learn what we can from people who have been at it for a while,” Mjoseth said.
The only thing to be determined now, is how to sell tickets to diners already having dinner at Sebastian Beach Inn, and, what time to start.
“We were both thinking about seven o’clock,” Roberts said. “But that is to be determined. We still have a few things to work out.”
Auditions are scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 4 at the Floridana Beach Civic Association clubhouse, 6635 Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach, FL.
“Lives of the Great Waitresses” needs four women ages 20s through 50s. “Three Tables” needs three men and three women.
The company also needs volunteer directors and crews.
The shows are scheduled to run March 14 and 21 at the Sebastian Beach Inn, 7035 S. Hwy A1A, Melbourne Beach.
For more information, call 305/240-0125.
This is an edited version of a story which ran in the Melbourne Beachsider.