is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Allie Darden is Wild About The Jungle Fun Room

Excitement is building for Studio Players' presentation of The Jungle Fun Room, Brian Hampton's award winning play which Hampton says, "is about a group of struggling actors who work and are preparing for a birthday party at the New York City Zoo.  When they get hit with the news that the Birthday Mom is an Oscar-winning actress, things start to go a bit wacko. Well, a lot wacko. In a good way for some, and in a bad way for others. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say there are some really funny and moving reactions to this news! There’s a lot of humor in the play and some extremely funny characters. But, at the heart of it, it speaks of success and what drives people to get what they want."

Especially spiking the jungle fever is that Hampton will be in attendance at on opening night, and he is certain to be proud as a peacock that Director Bob Singleton has selected an ensemble of the highest order for the show.  As they enter their final week of rehearsal, and the cast and crew are delighting in putting on the finishing touches, preening and polishing the scenes to bring yet another phenomenal performance by Studio Players to its audiences. 

One of the feature players is Allie Darden, who performed in the world premiere of Hampton's Checking In at Actors Guild of Lexington a few years ago.  Allie also will be appearing in the film of the same name, but for now, she's thrilled to be part of the Kentucky premiere of The Jungle Fun Room, a show that will showcase her many talents as a performer as well as provide her the opportunity to bring to life another of Hampton's unforgettable characters.
Allie (Shelly) and Amy Faust (as Hilary) rehearse a scene from The Jungle Fun Room. They also starred together in Run For Your Wife presented by Studio Players last Spring

When I asked her about her Jungle role, she explained, "I am playing Shelly, a former beauty queen and die-hard musical theatre performer. I wanted to audition for this because I will always want to audition for anything Brian Hampton writes. I had previously read the script and absolutely loved it. It's a great look into the lives of struggling actors, working as entertainers for children’s birthday parties at a New York City zoo and the different goals and journeys of each actor."
Allie in BCTC's See Jane Quit

Darden pointed out the differences between her characters in the two plays. "Shelly is a completely different character than Brooke (Checking In)....Shelly has one goal: to be on Broadway. She is focused and determined to have success and expresses this desire in a way that is over the top -- but she believes in everything she does, and she makes no apologies for it. She treats everything as if it's an audition. Because in her mind...everything is."

"Brooke is more of a party girl, and good friend, who just happens to have a dark secret. Brooke goes through more emotionally than Shelly does, however I think Shelly has gone through a great deal, and when we meet her in Jungle Fun Room, she is in a place of fierce drive and determination."

I also wanted to know if her husband, Singleton, had ever directed her before, and not surprisingly, she didn't monkey around about her respect and adoration for him.  "Yes, Bob directed me in The Mousetrap at Studio Players in 2006 and also in the Midway Play Festival last year.  I admire him so much.  He is an excellent director and brings so much knowledge and experience to the table. He's able to relate because he is such a talented actor himself; he understands challenges and brings forth solutions. And he allows each actor to have a voice. He encourages us to try things, even if he doesn't necessarily agree at first. He definitely has a very warm and down to earth approach, which makes for a very enjoyable experience. And he's brilliant (have I mentioned that?) ... he puts great shows on stage. Period."
Debbie Sharp, Allie Darden and Amy Faust at opening night of SummerFest's The Merchant of Venice in which Allie's dearly beloved, Bob Singleton played Bassanio.  Bob is directing The Jungle Fun Room as well as organizing the Midway Play Festival for late October.

Allie tells me the most challenging part of this role is that "Shelly is a very competitive, very driven character, and it would be so easy to play her as the ‘bitchy’ one. She definitely has more diva like moments than the other characters, but she has a good heart and is a good friend. It’s a delicate balance to incorporate the good-hearted Shelly, and still not lose the wonderfully ridiculous antics she pulls in order to stay on top."

Allie and Bob, the coolest power couple you'll ever meet.

She also admits it's tough to choose a favorite line or favorite moment in the play, because "There are just so many!  I love the scene where Shelly meets the celebrity Hillary Parker for the first time.  Shelly’s vocal warm-ups are very fun …you’ll see what I mean.  Some of them are from my own experiences taking voice lessons years ago.  Each vocal coach has their own unique style and one in particular had a very funny exercise to get your voice warmed up. I took a chance and threw it in one night and Bob loved it and said keep it! All of the cast are bringing so much to their characters and it makes rehearsals highly entertaining."

SECRET TALENT:  "Oh and another secret talent is not really a secret, but I love to cook. The more gourmet the better! If I'm not rehearsing, I love to stay home and cook... (but anyone who reads my Facebook posts can already see this)!," she laughs.

To watch Allie Darden perform is always fun, but it is clear that she is much in demand due to her generous personality, magnetic stage presence, and her ability to add her personal touch to any character she portrays.  Since theatre is a collaborative creature, actors like Allie are what it takes to make community theaters like Studio Players thrive and flourish in their natural and unnatural habitat. 
This marks Allie’s 12th performance at Studio Players. Recent Studio Players roles include: Barbara in Run for Your Wife, Ouisa in 6 Degrees of Separation,  Suzanne in Don’t Dress for Dinner,  Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Olivia in Shakespeare in Hollywood.  Allie also performed in See Jane Quit portraying Diane with BCTC and as Angelina/Brenda in Enigmatic Lucidity which was performed as one of the selections in the Midway Play Festival. Allie has performed with On The Verge portraying Laurette in Another Part of the Forest and with Actors Guild of Lexington which includes roles as Holly in Anton in Show Business and Brooke in Brian Hampton’s World Premiere Checking In. Allie spent much of last year performing in New York City in Checking In as Brooke. The show was performed as a staged reading at the Manhattan Blackbird Theatre, and also as a 2 week running show in the International Midtown Manhattan Theatre Festival. She will be traveling to Atlantic City next spring to film the movie version of Checking In.


THE JUNGLE FUN ROOM by Brian Hampton

Directed by Bob Singleton

The Jungle Fun Room centers on a group of struggling actors who spend their days working children's birthday parties at the New York City Zoo. When an eager new worker arrives fresh off the musical theatre conservatory boat, followed by the birthday girl's Oscar-winning Mom, it throws all involved into an emotional and hysterical loop where they're faced with past and ...present realties of their roles in show business and in life.

The Jungle Fun Room premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2009. Studio Players will be presenting the Regional Premiere of this award-winning script.


Screg.....Matt Seckman
Eve.......Jennifer L. Workman
Shelly.....Allie Darden
Trevor....Alex Maddox
Hilary.....Amy Faust

September 16-19, 24-26, October 1-3, 8-10
- Opening night, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8:00pm
- Sunday matinee performances begin at 2:30 pm

Playwright Brian Hampton will be in attendance for the opening night performance of The Jungle Fun Room.


There is also a midnight performance after the October 1st show. Doors open at 11:00 pm. It's a pay-what-you-can performance. All donations go to support our friend and local actor Bob Johnson (right) in his fight with Cancer

All performances $16.00
Students: $10.00

859.225.0370 or visit

By now, it's no secret to you lambchops that I think Allie is one of the greatest gals I've ever had the pleasure to meet. She's a good friend, a kind soul and she knows how to make me laugh. She's not just a star on stage, she shines her lovely light wherever she glows ;-)

See you at the show!
peace, y'all,

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