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The Red Velvet Cake Wars

March 2 - 5, 2017

Directed by Ken Hackman


In this uproarious Southern-fried comedy, three of the Verdeen cousins could not have picked a worse time to throw their family reunion. As a parade of wildly eccentric Verdeens gather on the hottest day of July, smackdab in the middle of Texas tornado season, things spin hilariously out of control and a jaw-dropping high-stakes wager is made on who bakes the best red velvet cake.  You’ll wish your own family reunions were this much fun!


Jenny Cochran, Peaches Verdeen Belrose, is so excited to be back on stage with her great friends in Madison.  She resides in Brandon with her husband, Wes, and her two beautiful red-headed children, Anna Claire & John Wesley.  She is so greatful to them for allowing her to escape into her theatre world to be in this fun show.   She has been in many productions with the Center Players such as M*A*S*H, To Kill A Mockingbird, Patio, The Beverly Hillbillies & The Odd Couple – Female Version.  She is so thankful to her Director, Ken Hackman, for giving her this great opportunity.


Kathryn Dawkins, Gaynelle Verdeen Bodine, a past President of The Center Players Board has been acting, directing, and working behind the scenes with this group for the past sixteen years.  She was thrilled to be a part of last year’s competition award winning two woman show, PATIO.  She won an all star cast award at the Mississippi Theatre Association festival as well as an outstanding achievement in acting award at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Greensboro, NC.  Some of her favorite shows include Arsenic and Old Lace (Abbey), The Odd Couple, female version (Florence), To Kill a Mockingbird (Jean Louise), Moon over Buffalo ( Charlotte), Lil Abner (Mammy Yokum), and Over the River and Through the Woods (Aida).  She is co-founder of Rising Stars Summer Theatre Camp at First Ridgeland where she will direct her sixth children’s musical this June.  She thanks her husband Mike and children Katie, Molly, and Pete for all their encouragement in her theatrical endeavors.


Ken Hackman, Director, has been very active with The Center Players and is the only remaining member of the group since inception. Ken directed Arsenic and Old Lace; the Female version of The Odd Couple; The Robber Bridegroom, and Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street among many others.  With The Center Players, he appeared in such roles as Hawkeye in M*A*S*H*, Tito in Lend me a Tenor and Mr. March in Little Women.  He served as Program Chairman for the 2001-2002 theatre season, and Play Selection Chairman for the 2002-2003 season. A longtime veteran of many other local theatres, some of his favorite past roles include the title roles in Dracula, The Foreigner, and The King and I. Ken has also performed as Joe in The Shadow Box, Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and George in The Red Peppers, a role for which he received the Best Actor award of the Mississippi Theatre Association (MTA) in 1989. Also an accomplished director, set designer and technical director, Ken has won numerous awards in that arena as well, including Best Director at the Mississippi State Theatre Festival in 1987, Best Technical Director in 1988, and Best Set Design in 1990. He served four terms as the Secondary School Chairman of the MTA, and as President of Clinton Community Theatre, Playhouse North, and twice for The Center Players. Ken is married to Ruth Broome-Hackman, a talented actress in her own right. They have two daughters – also wonderful actresses – Mandy, 28, and Allyn, 18. He teaches Zoology at Madison Central High School, and has also won numerous local and state awards for his work with students.

Mandy Hackman, Elsa Dowdall, was born with drama in her veins.  Mandy is delighted to return to the Center Players stage after directing Cheaper by the Dozen this past April.  She is very active with the Center Players, having served as assistant director, stage manager, makeup artist, costumer, and tech crew member.  She’s also no stranger to the stage – some of her favorite roles are Katisha in The Mikado, Abby in Arsenic & Old Lace, Vera in Dog Act, and Olive in The Odd Couple (Female Version). Mandy graduated from Mississippi State with degrees in English and Communication – Theatre in 2012, and has been teaching in Madison County Schools since then. This year, she made the move from Madison Central to Rosa Scott to work in the new Academy of Video Production, where she gets to exercise her flair for the dramatic. Mandy is a lover of all things Tolkien, Harry Potter, and generally anything nerdy. She lives in Madison with her adorable but slightly silly border collie Pippin.

Lelane Ray Higgins, CeeCee Windham, was recently seen in The Center Players production of The Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Some of her favorite shows include Lil Abner (Daisy Mae), To Kill a Mockingbird (Jean Louise), Crimes of the Heart (Lenny), Noises OFF (Poppy), and The Wizard of Oz (Wicked Witch) Last year, she was seen as Pearl in The Center Players competition award winning piece PATIO by Jack Heifner for the Mississippi Theatre Association and Southeastern Theatre Conferences. LeLane lives in Madison with her master carpenter husband, David and their “kids”, cats, Loki, Tempe, Rudy, Jefferson and dog Ozma.

Betty Jo Mahaffey,  Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen,  is a past president of the board of directors for The Center Players. Betty Jo has been involved with The Center Players since 2002 when she was cast as Aunt Martha in Arsenic and Old Lace. She has played many roles such as Truvy in Steel Magnolias, Salome in Robber Bridegroom, and the mom in A Christmas Story. She has been involved in numerous Center Players shows in many different capacities including running lights and sound, set design and construction, acting and directing. Betty Jo is a National Board Certified teacher, and she teaches at Madison Station Elementary. She lives in Pocahontas with her husband, Robert and their many fur babies.

Jack Mallette, Uncle Aubrey,  returns to the Center Players’ stage just a scant few months after his triumphant turn as Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, having successfully made the transition from dashing leading man Captain Philip Lombard in Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (2003) to playing grumpy old men. He is an internationally-known expert in vintage collectibles, as well as a successful writer, artist, and photographer. He resides in downtown Jackson and stands resolutely by his assertion that “it’s not hoarding if all the stuff is really cool.”

Chris Mills, Sheriff Grover, Chris Mills is excited to make his brief debut with The Center Players as he tackles the role of Sheriff Grover Lout. In the past few months, Chris was seen frightening patrons as Jacob Marley in Scrooge and (hopefully) not frightening patrons as Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest. He has been privileged to perform with Black Rose Theatre, Fringe Theatre, New Stage Theatre and Primrose Path Theatre. Chris performs regularly with Mississippi Murder Mysteries and is co-founder of the repertory theatre group The Wanderers. Chris would like to thank our director, Ken Hackman (he’s got great taste in faces), W & J for the good word, William Shakespeare for the good stories and Q & V for your love and continued support. “Act well your part, there all the honor lies.”


Oliver Nordan, Uncle Purvis, is excited to finally act the age he looks.  He has performed with the Center Players in The Nutcracker (the Nutcracker), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Sid Sawyer), and The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf (Clerk).  He has also been in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket), The Music Man (Prof. Hal E. Hill), and Shrek the Musical (Papa Shrek).  He would like to thank his family and friends for their constant support. 


Lauren Ray, Assistant Director, is a well-versed theatre artist with many directing, design, and performance credits. With the Madison Center Players, she assistant directed The Odd Couple: Female Version (2015) and was a member of the Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Ensemble (2013). Lauren always looks forward to new opportunities to make great art and appreciates all of you who continue to support the arts in our community.


Wendie Sheppard, Aunt LaMerle, is a native of Clarksville, TN, and is happy to be returning to the Madison Center Players. She was most recently seen as The Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, A Christmas Play. She studied Dramatic Productions in Greenville, SC, and is a a graduate of McNeese State University, LA. Among her numerous acting credits, Wendie has appeared in Steel Magnolias, The Honeymoon is Over, Fiddler on the Roof, The Importance of Being Ernest, Godspell, Guys & Dolls, and M*A*S*H*. She thanks YOU for supporting live theatre.


Kim Sims, Bitsy, is thrilled to return to the stage as Bitsy, a role that she loves as much as she loved playing Cousin Pearl in The Beverly Hillbillies. By day, Kim is a Cardiovascular Surgery Nurse, and by night she plans her next travel adventure with her husband Trae and children, Karenna and Jack.


Claire Stinson, Mama Doll Hargis, is no stranger to Center Players; her first performance here was as a gangster in Guys and Dolls, Jr. at the age of eight years old. Claire is one of the youngest in the cast, and is very excited to get out of her comfort zone by playing the oldest character. Some of her favorite roles from the past have included the Miss Gultch/Wicked Witch in (“Wizard of Oz”) and the Mouse King (“The Nutcracker”). Some of Claire’s hobbies include volunteering with the special needs community and practicing her special effects makeup skills. She would like to thank the cast/crew for a wonderful experience and Mr. Hackman for putting up with her for so long!


Michael Yost, Newt Blaylock,  is excited to be performing with Center Players again, where he was last seen in Over the River and Through the Woods (Nunzio). Other Center Players credits include A Christmas Story (The Old Man) and Rumors (Officer Welch). Other credits include 12 Angry Jurors (Three), Diary of Anne Frank (Mr. Dussel), Ordinary People (Dr. Berger), Moon Over Buffalo (George Hay), and Catfish Moon (Gordon). Michael is an electrical engineer with ASSET Engineering and works on electrical construction projects across the country. He and his wife, Gina, live in Madison and are the proud parents of three beautiful young women, Ashley (Seth), Kate, and Jenny, and the even prouder grandparents of three grandchildren!

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