is the grass any bluer...

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AGL's Hilary Brown Helps Belle Brezing Cast & Crew Tie Up Loose Ends

AGL's sound designer Tommy Gatton,
box office queen Hilary Brown and
stage manager exemplar Natalie Cummins are
three of the best & hardest working stage-hands in the area. 

Since Actors Guild of Lexington’s next show of the season opens next Thursday, June 2, loose ends are being tied up as secure as the corsets that will costume much of the cast.  

Accordingly, when Hilary Brown posted as her Facebook status yesterday that “Belle Brezing's grave is surprisingly hard to find,” I was curious as to why AGL’s box office manager would, indeed, be searching for the burial site of one of Lexington’s most colorful and bawdy characters.  

Over the past few years, Hilary could be seen working at every event AGL has held. She is cheerful, helpful and unassuming, providing the perfect atmosphere in which a theatre-goer is to be greeted.  She also procures props, photographs rehearsals, and uses a lot of her own elbow grease and craftsmanship to help AGL take works from page to stage -- as well as manning the ticket office -- but still, I just had to know why she would be looking for Brezing’s resting place.

Brown explains, “I wanted to take a picture of her headstone to put in the theater, along with various facts about her life (for example, that the year of her birth on her headstone is contested, and an alternate spelling of her name is used). I knew she was buried in Calvary Cemetery off Main Street, and thanks to (seriously), I was able to find out exactly where.  So I went there, and found the section, but couldn't find the grave anywhere! I had a photo of her grave, so I knew what it looked like, but I walked around for almost an hour looking for it.  Finally, I went to the cemetery's office (which, annoyingly, had been closed during that hour of aimless wandering), and got a map and a more specific description. There was a reason I had missed it - the entire headstone is almost completely swallowed up by a rose bush that someone had planted for her! There are shrubs and flowers planted around it by people honoring her. If I hadn't been told to look under the rose bush, I never would have found it! I couldn't even get a clear picture of it.”

Brezing’s rose-veiled grave serves as a proper allegory for her somewhat rose-colored life as a madam, which is primarily noted to be the purported basis for Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind character, Belle Whatley, the hooker-with-a-heart who aides Scarlett and Rhett in their quest to survive the ravages of the Civil War.  Living the brothel life, although uniquely lucrative, was not all stars and garters, though, and this is the story of her struggle and persevering personality.  The play reveals a painful childhood and the strife that left Brezing conflicted as the years passed.  
Belle Brezing Director, Tonda Leah Fields

Meanwhile, back at AGL, as Box Office Manager, Hilary Brown manages the online ticket sales, season tickets, and run the box office during shows, however, she tells me, “I also, when needed, perform photographic services, poster design, online marketing, props, set painting, give high-fives and hugs, and bake cupcakes.”

She became affiliated with AGL when she worked as house manager and box office attendant at the Downtown Arts Center for over 2 years before she came to Actors Guild. "That's how I got to know Eric (Seale, Artistic Director) and a lot of the actors. When AGL left the DAC, I tagged along to run their box office, since I was already familiar with AGL's system and knew many of their patrons.”

My secret talent? I can fold a fitted sheet like a pro! Also, as was discovered during pre-production of Dead Man's Cell Phone, I can catch falling power tools with my face, earning me the nickname "Drillary." 

In Gone With the Wind, Belle Whatley provides lullabye
as well as alibi (portrayed in the movie by Ona Munson)

BELLE BREZING, by Margaret C. Price
Margaret Carlyle Price

Belle Brezing is a new incarnation of an earlier work, titled 59 Megowan Street, which refers to the address of the famous Lexington brothel. The house at that location, which is now Eastern Avenue, was torn down many years ago.
The play as it will be seen when AGL opens the production next week is this time revised by Margaret C. Price.  “The re-write of the play is a little lighter and a little shorter,” said Price, a theater graduate of Northwestern University who earned a law degree at UK in 1980. “The play brings to life the story of a dynamic southern woman who brought herself out of poverty and an emotionally and physically painful early childhood,” Price said.

Popular  veteran actor and uber-mother to
twin toddlers, Laurie Genet-Preston will play
the lead role of Belle Brezing

“The play also sheds light on the connection of wounded childhoods and lives lived in quiet desperation,” she said.  In the play, Brezing (portrayed by Laurie Genet-Preston) travels back to the past with the spirit of her lover, Billy Mabon (played by Bob Singleton) bringing new perspective to her childhood and her adult life as a madam.

Bob Singleton (seen here in AGL's
Dead Man's Cell Phone)
plays Brezings' beau, Billy Mabon
Image from the University of Kentucky archives

Belle Brezing, the legendary madam who inspired Belle Watling of Gone With the Wind fame, is one of the most charismatic, colorful and scandalous women ever to come out of the South. When she died in August, 1939, the New York Times ran her obit on the front page (“Died: Famed Ky. bawd”) and Time Magazine paid tribute to Miss Brezing, whose house of pleasure on Lexington's Megowan Street was known as the “most orderly of disorderly houses.” Local playwright Margaret C. Price explores the twilight of the Lexington Madam’s death, when, haunted by her former lover’s spirit, Belle remembers what she had devoted a life-time to forgetting in order to forgive herself - beyond Life.

Belle Brezing: Laurie Genet Preston
Billy Mabon: Bob Singleton
Flora: Brenda Crutcher
Gil: Shelby Nance
Sally Sue: Meredith Crutcher
Lilly May: Jacqueline Eaton
Rose: Joy Davis
Jenny Lou:Bethany Finley/Ellen Kerr Jenkins
Gertrude: Lisa Osterman
Nellie: Sharon Sikorski
Maude: Libby Adkins
Isabel: Abby Reeve
Young Belle: Annie Barbera
Johnny: Jordan Pruitt
Alice Elly: Bethany Finley/Ellen Kerr Jenkins
Senator: Pete Sears
Sarah Breezing: Alicia Henning
Hester Breezing: Hayley Williams
Child Belle: Emily Michelle Reed
Mucci: Dave Dampier

June 2-12
Thursday, Friday, & Saturday shows begin at 8pm (doors open at 7)
Sunday matinees begin at 2pm (doors open at 1pm)

$20 for Adults
$15 for Seniors & Students

Tickets available at or by calling 1.866.811.4111. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office on the night of the performance. 

contact the AGL box office at to redeem your passcards.

Tickets cannot be reserved without payment.


Under the meticulous direction of Tonda Leah Fields, and with Genet-Preston in the lead role, her ability to play multi-faceted characters will provide the credibility needed to carry off such a part and convince AGL audiences.  Add to Laurie's performance a stellar supporting cast that includes everyone's favorite leading man, Bob Singleton, as Belle's beau (Billy Mabon), AGL is certain to see the rewards of their hard work by the results at the box office, where it is certain that Hilary Brown will courteously and efficiently be holding down the proverbial fort.  

See you at the show,

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